It is Week 6 and time to update my predictions based on everything we have learned so far this season. My preseason predictions are perfect so far—5-0. One thing I did not predict was the historically bad rash of injuries that befell the Jets this year.
As a result of all of these injuries, you can expect my predictions to take a turn for the worse. In addition to losing their best players on offense and defense—Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis—the Jets have several other key players dealing with injuries. The most serious injuries are those to Sione Pouha, Dustin Keller, Stephen Hill, Nick Mangold and Kenrick Ellis.
The Jets impressed a lot of people Monday night by holding their own against the 5-0 Houston Texans. Nevertheless, it is not reasonable to expect what is essentially the Jets' second-string offense to take on elite teams.
The Jets have 11 games remaining in 2012. Let's take a look at what will happen.
On the other hand, the Colts offense is not exactly high-powered just yet. It was held to a mere 17 points by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and both of Indianapolis' wins this season came by three-point margins. As of the beginning of Week 5, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck had a negative ranking at Pro Football Focus and a QB rating of only 75.4.
The Colts are a legitimate team and could even be considered a bubble wild-card team. However, the Jets will get the victory at home. A big part of this game will be injury recovery. Three key Jets players are all questionable and likely to return in Week 6—Sione Pouha, Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill.
If those three players are all healthy and effective, the Jets will win this one comfortably. If one or more of them is missing, it will be a much closer game and potentially a loss. It is also worth keeping an eye on center Nick Mangold and nose tackle Kenrick Ellis. Both players suffered injuries Monday night.
Result: Jets win (3-3)
One aspect of games between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots to keep in mind is that they are rarely predictable. Historically, the Patriots lead the series 53-52-1 against the Jets.
The most wild year in recent history between these teams was in 2010. The Jets shocked the Patriots with a 28-14 win early in the season despite star cornerback Darrelle Revis leaving early with an injury. The Patriots then crushed the Jets 45-3 later in the season.
Finally, the Jets defeated the Patriots 28-21 in the second round of the playoffs. This caused Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to confess, "The Jets loss, I’ll never get over that. That’s as painful a loss as we’ve ever had here as a team."
This rivalry match will be hard-fought as always, and I would be lying if I said I knew who was going to win. Nevertheless, given the extent of the Jets' injuries as a team, I will give the nod to the Patriots.
Result: Jets lose (3-4)
The safe bet against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 is that it will be an ugly, low-scoring game. The Dolphins lacks the weapons on offense to put up many points on the Jets defense (even with their two best players missing). Likewise, the Jets rarely score much against the Dolphins.
Running back Shonn Greene has had problems against the Dolphins. In their previous meeting this season, Greene garnered only 40 yards on 19 carries. Meanwhile, backup Bilal Powell ran 10 times for 45 yards. Expect to see more activity from Powell.
While the game will be close, the Jets will pull out the victory. They already won in Miami in Week 3, and their roster is still deeper and more talented.
Results: Jets win (4-4)
Week 9 is the Jets' bye week this season, so Week 10 follows Week 8. In Week 10 they travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks. The Seahawks garnered some extremely varied opinions this past offseason, including a Super Bowl prediction from ESPN writer Bill Simmons.
They are currently in last place in the NFC West at 3-2, which is a strange place in which to be. It is perhaps worth reminding everyone that the Seahawks should really be 2-3.
One major X-factor for the Seahawks in coming weeks is their quarterback situation. Rookie starting quarterback Russell Wilson has had some troubles, and Matt Flynn is arguably the best back-up quarterback in the NFL.
Wilson is currently ranked as the No. 27 quarterback at Pro Football Focus. This should be a close game. However, I am banking on Wilson improving and maintaining his starting job. This will be a low-scoring game—with two strong defenses and two weak offenses—but the Seahawks will pull this one out.
Result: Jets lose (4-5)
With the strength of the NFC West so far this season, the St. Louis Rams are likely to be favored at home against the Jets. However, the matchup is not a good one for the Rams.
Furthermore, the Jets front seven—a strong but slow group—is effective against predictable runs. Schottenheimer will likely attempt some misdirection and reverse runs, but they are unlikely to work against a defense that handled them so easily for years in practices.
The Rams also have the potential disadvantage of being the first team this year to face a somewhat healthier Jets team. Stephen Hill, Dustin Keller and Sione Pouha are all likely to be at full strength by Week 11.
The Rams scored only 18 points per game in their two recent wins against division rivals. Other than star running back Steven Jackson, the Rams offense does not have a lot of weapons. Third-year quarterback Sam Bradford has had quarterback ratings below 70 in the Rams' past three games.
Offensively, the Rams will need to score a reasonable number of points (probably 20+) in order to win this game. Instead, this game will turn out to be an ugly one for the Rams offense, and the Jets will win without needing too much production from their offense.
Result: Jets win (5-5)
This Thanksgiving Day game will be a lot more interesting if both teams are still in contention for the AFC East title. A lot of that depends on the Patriots, who have not been as strong so far this season as they have been in recent history.
Playing a road game on a Thursday is always a disadvantage in the NFL. Nevertheless, I expect the Patriots to win this one. The Patriots have been almost injury-free so far this season, and tight end Aaron Hernandez should be 100 percent by Week 12.
With Revis not playing, wide receiver Wes Welker will have at least eight catches or so, and the Jets will drop below .500. On a related note though, the Patriots will be given too generous of a point spread, and the Jets will cover the spread. A big point spread is something you can count on when the Patriots have a nationally televised game.
Result: Jets loss (5-6)
The Arizona Cardinals are 4-1 with a differential of only +16. That differential just screams upcoming losing streak. While the Cardinals have a solid defense, I do not expect them to make the playoffs. After an extremely lucky 4-0 start, they were manhandled by the mediocre St. Louis Rams in Week 5.
This game will be a low-scoring affair featuring two good defenses and two bad offenses. For all the negative attention the New York Jets offense receives, it has still scored more points through five weeks than the Cardinals offense has.
A key matchup to watch will be cornerback Antonio Cromartie against Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Jets fans have become accustomed to opposing No. 1 wide receivers not getting thrown to. With Cromartie filling in for Darrelle Revis, games are going to look very different. Fitzgerald will get targeted, and this game may come down to a Cromartie interception or a Cromartie mistake.
This game is a toss-up and should be very close, but I have the Cardinals winning a close one.
Result: Jets lose (5-7)
I cannot in good conscience pick the Jacksonville Jaguars to win any one game—even at home. After their 1-4 start, they are averaging a measly 13 points per game while giving up 28 points per game.
The only team with a worse differential is the Tennessee Titans.
Given their tough upcoming schedule, the Jaguars could realistically be 2-10 coming into this game. This game will not be a blowout though. Given the poor state of the Jets' injury-shredded offense, they will not blow out anybody this year.
Nonetheless, the Jets will win this one with relative ease to stay in the playoff hunt.
Result: Jets win (6-7)
In hindsight, New York Jets at Tennessee Titans may not have been the best choice for a Monday night game.
The Titans are currently the worst team in the NFL, and to understand why you have to look no further than star running back Chris Johnson. Johnson is rated as the No. 105 running back in the NFL, behind the likes of Leon Washington and David Wilson. Johnson's 1.6 yards per carry and lost fumble in Week 5 were representative of his season so far.
The Titans were massacred by the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5, getting only four plays in Vikings territory before fourth-quarter garbage time. The Titans are giving up an astonishing 36 points per game so far this season against less-than-stellar offenses.
If the Jets are 6-7 coming into this game—as I have predicted—then New York fans and players will be unhappy with that. Yet, regardless of the situation the team is in, it will be able to handle the Titans. This will be the Jets' last easy victory of 2012.
Result: Jets win (7-7)
Week 16 will be the week the Jets get officially knocked out of the playoffs. I am a tad nervous about this pick, because west coast teams often play poorly on the road on the east coast.
In spite of that, I think that the San Diego Chargers will handle their business. They have a +22 differential so far this year and are leading the AFC West. This game will most likely have major ramifications toward the AFC West division title.
This will be yet another close—and perhaps ugly—game, but the Chargers will get an important win on the road to help their push for a playoff spot.
Result: Jets lose (7-8)
This Week 17 matchup is a battle between two teams that will already be eliminated from playoff contention. However, you can bet these two teams will still care a whole lot about who wins, especially if it is a game to decide second place in the AFC East.
The rivalry between the Jets and Bills has been one of the most lopsided rivalries in the NFL over the past decade. The Bills do not match up well against the Jets, even though they do have significant talent on both offense and defense.
The Jets are 6-1 against the Bills in the Rex Ryan era, with the lone loss coming in an overtime game. That streak includes five consecutive games in which the Bills failed to score more than 14 points in regulation.
The Bills have allowed an atrocious 35 points per game so far this season and are showing no sign of letting up. My bold prediction for this game is that Mark Sanchez will play every snap on offense and throw for at least two touchdowns.
Ultimately, the Jets will win a meaningless game and head into another offseason of being badgered by the New York media.
Result: Jets win (8-8)