5 Bold Predictions for New York Jets' Week 4 Matchup Against Tennessee
The New York Jets have steamrolled into a relevant light in the early going of the new season.
Gang Green has a major opportunity to continue turning the tides on doubters this week. Rex Ryan's Jets seemingly play their best football when nobody gives them a chance.
That mantra remains prominent in 2013, as the Jets look toward taking the next step in becoming a legitimate playoff contender.
The Jets made headlines in their ugly Week 3 win over the Buffalo Bills, racking up 20 penalties to become the first team in 62 years to win a game after being excessively flagged.
However, the Jets have plenty to be happy about after a 513-yard explosion on offense.
Rookie signal-caller Geno Smith became the first Jets quarterback to throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in a single game, fueling his team to victory despite tossing two interceptions.
Newfound lead back Bilal Powell also racked up 149 rushing yards on 27 carries after Chris Ivory aggravated a hamstring injury that hindered his activity during the preseason.
In addition, the Jets' "salty" defense stymied opposing QB E.J. Manuel, recording a whopping total of eight sacks.
If the Jets can decrease their tendency to commit bone-headed penalties, they could soon establish themselves as a potential contender for a playoff spot.
Here are five bold predictions for the Jets' Week 4 matchup against the Tennessee Titans.
Front 7 Records 5 Sacks
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The Jets' front seven is one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
Ryan's blitz-happy defensive scheme wreaked havoc on the Bills' offensive front in Week 3. The Jets constantly flushed Manuel out of the pocket, forcing him into pressure-cooked throwing situations.
If the Jets continue to dominate the trenches on defense, they'll have a distinct chance to win a lot of football games in 2013.
All three of the team's contests in 2013-14 have been decided by a touchdown or less. The defense, specifically up front, has done a fantastic job of limiting scoring opportunities for the opposition.
The Jets currently rank seventh overall in passing defense, surrendering just over 190 yards per game through the air. In addition, Ryan's brutal rush defense ranks sixth, yielding under 80 rushing yards per game.
The combination of stellar run defense and solid pass defense has launched the Jets into a serious position to contend for the postseason.
Given the outstanding play from defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and nose tackle Damon Harrison, there's no reason the Jets can't continue to dominate the line of scrimmage on defense.
It's certain that Ryan will dial up the pressure on mobile quarterback Jake Locker in Week 4.
Locker has rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushing attempts this season. He's not a constant threat to run, but can punish teams with his feet in open space when given room to work with.
Look for the Jets to ferociously blitz five-plus pass-rushers in various defensive formations to confuse Locker.
Generating pressure in the backfield is the staple of Ryan's defensive game-planning. The Jets have the talent up front to constantly stymie opposing quarterbacks.
Locker is just next in line.
Stephen Hill Finds the End Zone Twice
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Second-year wide receiver Stephen Hill is steadily becoming Geno Smith's favorite downfield target. The speedy wideout caught a 51-yard touchdown pass in stride early on against the Bills and totaled over 100 receiving yards.
Hill is averaging over 24 yards per reception in 2013. His ability to gain separation against coverage makes him the type of vertical passing threat the Jets need on offense.
The team's receiving corps isn't top-notch, but it's good enough to create the occasional big play downfield.
Hill presents the ability to stretch the field, which adds a new dynamic to an offense formerly consumed by the concept of ground-and-pound. The Jets' offensive line will continue to enable a run game that ranks sixth overall, eclipsing nearly 134 rushing yards per game.
The Jets' ability to effectively run the ball should create a bounty of opportunities for Hill to showcase his speed downfield.
The Titans possess an above-average core of defensive backs that have been effective in preventing monstrous gains downfield in the first three games of 2013.
Tennessee will be tested in pass coverage against Hill on Sunday. Smith has targeted his main speed threat 23 times through three games, a trend that will likely continue to develop as their chemistry evolves.
If Hill can effectively gain some separation from cornerback Alterraun Verner, he has an opportunity to have a big day.
Verner is an aggressive defensive back that likes to jump passing routes in an effort to generate interceptions. He's tallied two picks already in 2013, but could bite the bullet if he over-pursues in coverage against Hill.
Antonio Allen Picks off Jake Locker
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The Jets defense has been mostly stellar throughout the first three weeks of the season, but it has failed to generate a surplus of turnovers.
That needs to change if the Jets are going to continuously eke out small-margin victories.
Strong safety Antonio Allen showcased an ability to read the quarterback in the preseason, which helped him earn a starting spot on the depth chart. Allen recorded a pick-six in the Jets' final preseason game against the Eagles on a telegraphed pass from backup QB Matt Barkley.
The former seventh-round pick has been mostly quiet in the early going this season, totaling 10 tackles, seven assisted tackles and a sack in three starts.
Allen will try to read Locker on Sunday, who has yet to hurl an interception in the new season. Locker has completed 58.6 percent of his pass attempts in 2013 while throwing three touchdowns. He averages just 6.58 yards per pass attempt, which means he doesn't often throw the ball deep.
Nate Washington is Locker's most distinguished receiving target and will likely be matched up against Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Washington is a safety net for Locker, catching 12 balls for first downs this season.
The Jets' defensive front will get after Locker, ideally forcing him to make a couple of bad throwing decisions. If Locker stares down Washington in a desperate situation against tight coverage by Cromartie, Allen could aggressively jump the route for a pick.
The Jets defense has been top-tier through three games, but needs to start forcing more turnovers. It's pivotal for the Jets in sustaining long-term success in 2013.
Bilal Powell Repeats 100-Yard Performance
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The Jets appeared to have a backfield stuffed with role players when training camp commenced in July.
It was presumed that Chris Ivory would be a centerpiece player on an offense mostly devoid of significant playmakers. Suspended tailback Mike Goodson would adopt a role as a third-down back, which would leave Bilal Powell on the outskirts of the depth chart and desperate for carries.
None of that has come to fruition.
Powell has emerged as a durable running back capable of handling the bulk of the carries on offense. He also features above-average receiving prowess, which appropriately complements the philosophy of Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
The 24-year-old back is averaging 4.3 yards per carry on 52 carries through three games in 2013. He recorded his first 100-yard rushing performance against a Bills defense that yields a whopping total of 155 yards on the ground per game.
Powell could face a more difficult challenge in the Titans in Week 4. Tennessee has been solid on defense so far this season, but could be somewhat vulnerable on the ground. The Titans are currently surrendering over 101 rushing yards per game.
If Ivory is unable to play on Sunday, Powell will receive a hefty workload for consecutive weeks.
The third-year back is averaging over 17 carries per game thus far and will likely hear his number called upward of 20 times in Tennessee.
Powell has the potential to develop into a constant contributor on offense, which will be on display in Week 4 when he surpasses the 100-yard rushing plateau for the second straight week.
Geno Smith Tosses 3 Touchdown Passes
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Rookie gunslinger Geno Smith has been up and down throughout his first three games as the Jets' main signal-caller.
He threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills, displaying enormous arm strength and pinpoint accuracy.
His back-shoulder throw to veteran wideout Santonio Holmes that resulted in a game-winning 69-yard touchdown was perfectly executed. It was a textbook throw that was effectively timed. Holmes caught the ball in stride and sprinted to the end zone, practically redefining himself as a No. 1 receiver in an instant.
Smith will continue to endure predictable growing pains as a rookie QB. However, gaining sufficient production from his supporting cast will help ease the pressure.
Despite chucking two interceptions in Week 3, the former West Virginia standout will enter Sunday's game against the Titans high on confidence.
Smith is quickly developing his skill set, even though he's coughed up six turnovers in just three games. He needs to cut down on his tendency to commit costly mistakes, but also needs to trust his judgment and avoid second-guessing himself in the pocket.
Smith's most noticeable improvement against the Bills was his timing.
He became prone to holding on to the football too long in his first two games as a pro, but did a solid job of delivering passes on time in Week 3, which enabled his receivers to generate big gains.
The Jets are coming off a rare 513-yard explosion on offense, elevating the team's confidence level to new heights.
Smith needs to appropriately take his shots downfield while efficiently operating Mornhinweg's offense. As he continues to gain added comfort in the pocket, he'll begin to deliver more passes on the mark.
Steady improvement points to a stellar performance for Smith in Week 4.
The rookie will toss three touchdowns and lead the Jets to a 30-21 win against the Titans.