At 2-3 and fresh off a disappointing prime-time loss, the Jets are at the crossroads of a season.
Throughout the beginning of the 2012 season, the Jets have looked at times like a playoff-caliber team, and at others a franchise that should expect a high draft pick come April.
If the Jets have the ability to right the ship this season, this is the time to do it. A few factors are going to contribute to the Jets being capable of posting a double-digit win season this year. In the coming weeks, we will see if these factors will put the Jets in more winnable games.
Eight of the Jets' remaining 11 games come against teams that were 8-8 or worse last season. Six of those teams, Indianapolis, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Buffalo, had less than six wins last year. While some of those teams have improved this season, these games still present a great opportunity for the Jets.
These are must-win games for the Jets. If they take care of business in these games, they can afford to split or go 0-2 against the Patriots, whom they've yet to face.
On the same note, in their remaining games they will face three young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Blaine Gabbert. The defense is the motor that keeps this Jets team going, and it needs to force mistakes from these inexperienced passers.
Having watched the Jets for years, I know that there are no "gimme" games, especially with the current state of this year's team, but opportunities are there.
According to NJ.com, both TE Dustin Keller and WR Stephen Hill both expect to play this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
This is great news for Gang Green.
The return of Keller, Sanchez's favorite receiver, and Hill, a rookie that's shown promise, offers the possibility of a functional offense taking the field.
Both Keller and Hill were suffering from hamstring injuries, the type of injury that can continue to nag a player throughout the season. While their return is a good sign, the true test will be whether they can stay in the lineup. If they can, the Jets' offense will be far more dynamic and should move the ball more effectively than it has in the past few games.
No matter how you feel about the Jets' fourth-year quarterback, the simple fact is his performance has not been that poor this season, and a midseason quarterback shift would be more disruptive to the team's success.
Fans may be booing the offense, but you have to keep in mind the tools Sanchez is working with. In the last game against the Texans, Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight combined did not eclipse 50 rushing yards, and Jeremy Kerley was the most experienced Jets receiver on the field. With the injuries on offense and an inept running game, Sanchez has had little help this season.
Sanchez's stat line last week may look disappointing in the box score: 14-of-31, 230 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT's. Would fans like to see a higher completion percentage? Yes. But regarding his interceptions, anyone that actually watched the game knows both interceptions he threw came on tipped balls.
Gang Green Nation may continue to clamor for Tebow, but if they are committed to supporting a playoff run this year, fans need to back Sanchez as the starter.
The Jets' biggest strengths right now are defense and special teams.
The emphasis for the team needs to highlight these strengths.
Mike Westhoff's special teams unit is averaging the fifth-highest kick return average (28.7) and the second-highest punt return average (17.0) in the NFL. Most impressively though, the Jets' special teams players have found the end zone twice already this season.
By the numbers, the Jets' defense is in the middle of the pack in the NFL. One of the biggest problems facing New York though is that the offense keeps putting the defense in a position where it has to defend a short field.
Let the special teams unit set the offense up with good field position. If the offense can't move the ball, punt it and let the defense shut down an opposing offense facing a long field.
The Jets can take a page from the 49ers' book: Play conservatively on offense and let the defense fuel the team.