New York Jets: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8

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New York Jets: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

While they may have been blessed with a little luck, the New York Jets were able to squeak out an overtime victory against their rival New England Patriots for the first time since the 2010 playoffs. 

This win not only gives the Jets bragging rights over their Boston rivals until their next meeting, it gives New York a huge divisional win that puts the team within striking distance of doing something no one thought was possible—take the division lead. 

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Still, as big of a win as this was, the Jets would be naive to think that they have no room for improvement. After all, if the Patriots ran a "standard" field-goal block, the tone around both cities would be completely different, and the idea of the Jets winning the division would be a distant hopeful memory. 

As a result, the Jets must be able to clean up their game so they can win without having to rely on late-game heroics on a weekly basis just to get into the win column. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Jets headed into Week 8.

 

Division Standings

Obviously, beating the Patriots will wind up as the biggest win of the season, particularly in terms of how it factors into increasing the Jets' chances of gaining division supremacy. Not only is this a divisional win (the Jets are now 2-1 in the AFC East), but it comes against the team that was heavily favored to win the division anyway. 

This win puts a stain on New England's record and erases the possibility of them having a tiebreaker over the Jets because of head-to-head results.

AFC East Standings
Team Wins Losses Points For Points Against
New England Patriots 5 2 152 127
New York Jets 4 3 134 162
Miami Dolphins 3 3 135 140
Buffalo Bills 3 4 159 178

NFL.com/standings

Meanwhile, there was some more head-to-head action in the AFC East, as the Buffalo Bills were able to gain some ground on the Dolphins after beating them in a close game, 23-21. The Dolphins have now lost three games in a row. 

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets do not play either team for several weeks (the Bills on November 17 and the Dolphins on December 1). The fact that the Bills won favors the Jets, as it puts them one more game ahead of the Dolphins to solidify their second-place position.

 

Injury Report

The Jets came out of their game against New England relatively healthy. In fact, their roster looks like it will be in better shape for next week than it was before the game as they continue to get some key players back. 

Perhaps the only concern is with Dee Milliner, who was dinged-up again in his first game back from a previous hamstring injury he suffered three weeks ago. 

He did return to the game, but he was far from being effective. He was picked on often, especially early in the game and did not look confident when following his receiver. He did start to settle in more in the second half, but it remains to be seen whether his struggles are a result of his injuries or his shortcomings as a player.

The good news is that Santonio Holmes is one week closer to being back in the lineup, although his status is not yet certain. David Nelson did do a fine job in his place last week with an 80-yard performance, so the Jets should feel no need to rush him back.

 

What Must Improve

Had the Jets been on the wrong side of the whistle, we would all be looking at this game under a much different light, searching for reasons why they lost as opposed to highlighting reasons why they won.

 

Penalties Are Still a Problem

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

While they have certainly come a long way from their 20-penalty performance against the Bills (although it is hard to get worse than that), penalties are still costing the Jets far too many yards than they should on a weekly basis. 

The Jets finished the game against New England with nine penalties for 45 yards. The majority of the penalties were on the defensive side, as the Jets were called for offsides or for neutral zone infractions on far too many occasions.

While the yardage was not severe when looking at the box score, the constant shortening of down-and-distance situations puts a defense in a very difficult situation. There were several occasions in which the Jets turned 3rd-and-long situations into 3rd-and-manageable distances, stretching their defense thin and limiting how exotic they can be in their playbook.

The good news is that offsides penalties, unlike holding or pass interference calls, are never a result of a lack of skill. Rather, the Jets simply need to concentrate more and not suffer so many mental lapses before the snap. 

The tricky task for Rex Ryan is to find a way to limit the penalties without taking away the sting of his feisty defensive line. After all, for as many penalties as they draw, they make up for them with spectacular plays in the backfield.

 

Rookie Quarterback Mistakes

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Geno played about as well as you could ask for from a rookie quarterback against a Bill Belichick defense—with the exception of one hideous throw.

Right before the Jets were ready to finish their second scoring drive in a row, Smith made a colossal mistake of throwing to a covered David Nelson on a route into the flats. 

The result was a 70-yard pick-six that may have been a 14-point swing in the game:

Smith has thrown a lot of interceptions this season (11), but he has at least made them either far down the field or deep in the opposing team's territory, limiting the damage—until this play. 

It is unclear as to why Smith threw the pass in the first place. Ryan was draped over Nelson the entire time. Even if the pass was completed, it would have been for a minimal gain; the risk was not even close to being worth the reward. 

Nonetheless, Geno and the Jets need to find out what caused him to make this throw and prevent it from happening again, because New York is not going to be able to rebound from interceptions on a weekly basis in the long run.

 

Dropped Passes

Again, outside of one errant throw, Smith had about as clean of a game as you could ask for, even if his 71.9 quarterback rating did not reflect that. 

Outside of his one interception, the biggest reason why the Jets were not more effective through the air was because of more drops by his pass-catchers, with Jeff Cumberland as the primary culprit. 

Cumberland had two huge drops in the game. The first came on a touchdown that bounced right off his hands:

The next one came late in the fourth quarter that would have sealed the game, avoiding the whole field-goal penalty controversy entirely.

Cumberland has been an effective weapon in Kellen Winslow's absence, but he needs to be more reliable in such critical situations before he can be considered as an upper-level starting tight end.

Many of these needed improvements are nitpicking—after all, the Jets did just beat a 5-1 team with a rookie quarterback.

Still, the Jets cannot afford to stay complacent in their success. If they want to be recognized as serious contenders, they should be unsatisfied with any weakness in their game. After all, the Jets are a few miracle calls away from being at the bottom of their division.

 

Advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required).

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