The Jets are 2-2, but after last Sunday's debacle, it feels like they are 0-4 and headed for a winless season.
The Jets are limping into this game without their two most dynamic players in Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes. The Texans, on the other hand, are the lone undefeated team in the AFC and will be heavily favored in this Monday night matchup.
Here are 10 keys to make a Jets upset possible.
Based on the way the Jets have been running the ball against stout defenses, the forecast looks bleak for the Jets to pick up the ground attack on Monday night.
However, as dominant as J.J. Watt and the Texans have been on defense, the did allow over one hundred yards to Chris Johnson(!) last week. Before last week, Chris Johnson may have been the only starting runner worse than Shonn Greene, and the fact that he was able to have success is encouraging.
Even if the Jets are not successful running the ball early, there is no way they can let Sanchez try to carry the team without any quality receivers to throw to. If they do, it will lead to turnovers and quick three-and-outs.
As long as the game is withing reach, the Jets must stay with the run, as bleak as it may look at times.
Every week, the run defense gets worse and worse, as the Jets allowed more rushing yards this year than every team with the exception of the New Orleans Saints.
Things will not get any easier against the Texans, who boast a terrific one-two punch with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Both the 49ers and Texans are similar in overall style, but Houston is a much more zone-oriented team as opposed to the 49ers power scheme.
If the Jets are going to have a prayer in this game, they must stop the run. If the Texans are able to be their usual multidimensional selves, it is going to be a long day for the Jets defense.
At the same time, if the Jets can at least stop the run well enough to keep the Texans off the field, the Jets offense will at least have a chance to keep pace on the scoreboard.
Because of the Jets obvious lack of a receiver threat, expect the Texans to play a ton of press coverage with Jonathan Joseph.
The Jets are going to struggle against the press, but the best way to get the Texans to back off is to run the ball to the edge (corners locked up with their man can't make tackles) or try to beat them deep.
If the Jets stay in a short passing game, the receivers will never get off the line as the Texans will be fearless in the press. After all, if they give up a completion, it will only be for a small chunk of yards.
However, if the Jets take some early shots down the field, it could open up the Texans for more manageable underneath stuff. Besides, if there is one strength the Jets have at receiver, it's speed. Clyde Gates, Jason Hill, and Stephen Hill (if he plays) can all get downfield in a hurry.
Now that the Jets have added some real corner depth with the signing of Aaron Berry, McKnight figures to return to his role as a running back, where he should see a significant increase in carries.
Shonn Greene leaves too many yards on the field, and Bilal Powell does not exactly strike fear into opposing defenses.
With Holmes out, the Jets need to find another way to spread out the Texans defense with speed and "home-run" ability. Getting McKnight out on screens and stretch plays will give the Jets offense a dimension of speed and width that they have been lacking.
It is a common misconception that the Jets are not going to be able to be nearly as aggressive without Darrelle Revis in the backfield.
In fact, the Jets have been getting less and less aggressive over the past year. According to Capital New York’s Greg Hanlon, the Jets ranked just 12th in blitz percentage last year, down from third and first the previous two years.
Adding outside pressure is the Jets' best hope to maintain effectiveness on third downs. The Score.com's Alen Dumonjic explains Ryan's philosophy, which includes bringing defensive backs to create the illusion of pressure, despite only bringing four players to rush the passer:
Ryan also makes mention of outnumber[ing] the tackle-to-tackle blocking schemes at the point of attack” (p. 16) in his book, which explains the overload pressures that he’s accustomed to using. These consist of often using defensive backs to get to the quarterback, particularly at his throwing arm to force a throw across the body. Defensive backs are ideal because they are quicker through their blitz paths than linebackers and offer the element of surprise.
Perhaps the Jets will not be able to leave one player on Andre Johnson, but if they rely on their slow, aging linebackers to get to the quarterback all night, Matt Schaub is going to pick apart the Jets secondary with ease.
In the only game Dustin Keller played in against Buffalo, the Jets scored four offensive touchdowns. Since then, they have scored three.
Connect the dots.
Now, Dustin Keller's absence is not the only reason for the Jets recent offensive struggles, but they cannot go into this game with Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens as their top offensive weapons. Keller needs to be in the game to give Sanchez an outlet and draw more attention from roaming safeties.
The Jets are going to be very easy to defend for the rest of the season, but a return of Keller could at least help soften the blow of Holmes' injury.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but for a defense that has struggled against the run, maintaining gaps becomes even more important than ever against the Texans' zone rushing attack.
The Texans' scheme allows for the running back to have plenty of options when running the ball, which Arian Foster executes very well. He is an excellent cutback runner and will take advantage of any crease he is given.
As soon as he sees a Jet defender out of position, Foster is going to capitalize over and over until the Jets play each gap honestly.
If the Jets are sound in their alignment and technique while making sound tackles, they have enough talent up front to keep Foster in check.
If Dustin Keller is out of the game, Jeremy Kerley becomes the most dynamic receiving threat on the team.
There is no way Chaz Schilens, Clyde Gates, and Stephen Hill are going to get off the press coverage the Texans employ. The best way for the Jets to have success is to attack Alan Ball, who is a solid player in his own right, in the slot.
Kerley is going to be vital in terms of helping Sanchez convert third downs and keeping the Texans off the field.
Through four games, you would be hard-pressed to find a more dominant defensive player in the league outside of J.J. Watt. With 7.5 sacks from a 3-4 defensive end, Watt is dominating his position like no one else since Bruce Smith in the 1990's.
Watt usually lines up at left defensive end, but they could put him over the Jets' weakest interior link in Matt Slauson to give him the best matchup. If that is the case, Mangold needs to help Slauson out and leave Brandon Moore and the the two tackles to deal with pressure on their own.
If the Texans are able to get an interior pass rush on Sanchez, the Jets offense is not going to have a prayer.
For this game and just about every game the Jets play from here on out, they would be best to almost pretend as if Revis is still around and rely heavily on their corners to hold up in man coverage.
Cromartie is no Revis, but he is fast enough to at least not give up many big plays to Andre Johnson because of his recovery speed.
Using a single-high safety will allow the Jets to bring another safety into the box to play the run or help deal with Owen Daniels.
Kyle Wilson may have his share of flaws, but his matchup against Kevin Walter is a gamble the Jets are just going to have to take. After all, if the Jets are going to manage to pull off the upset, they are going to have to roll the dice somewhere.