Since heading into the bye week at 5-4, the Jets have been grounded in every sense of the word, not sitting with a losing record of 5-6.
The pass protection is beyond abysmal, the now-healthy receiving corps has developed a serious case of butterfingers, and Geno Smith has regressed as a result.
The Jets are still in the playoff hunt, but they have forfeited the right to control their own destiny over the final stretch.
Even more important than this year's playoff push is that the Jets must reach a conclusion on Geno Smith by the end of the season. How he responds to this adversity over the coming five weeks will likely be the determining factor as to whether or not the Jets need to get back into the quarterback market next spring.
While Sunday's loss was not a backbreaker, it certainly puts in some doubt as to whether or not the Jets are as good as the team that beat the Saints just three short weeks ago.
|AFC East Standings|
|Team||WIns||Losses||Points For||Points Against|
|New England Patriots||8||3||288||230|
|New York Jets||5||6||186||287|
The Jets' loss to the Ravens hurts the Jets' playoff chances in several ways. Not only does it give the Jets an in-conference loss, but it also pulls the Ravens ahead of the Jets because of their head-to-head matchup.
Worse for the Jets is that the San Diego Chargers found a way to pull off the upset over the Chiefs, adding one more team to the list of clubs ahead of the Jets in the playoff hunt. The Patriots have all but locked up first place after their dramatic win over the Broncos.
The only good news for the Jets from Sunday's action was that the Miami Dolphins dropped a close game to the Carolina Panthers, keeping at least one playoff contender at bay. The Jets play the Dolphins next week in what may be a season-changing game for both teams as they fight to stay alive in the playoff race.
The Jets emerged from Sunday's loss without any devastating injuries, but there were a few significant injuries to some key players.
Antonio Cromartie was unable to finish the game, as his nagging hip flared up. His status for next week is unknown, but he did tell Kimberly Martin of Newsday that his hip injury may at least partially explain why he has given up so many big plays as of late.
The other big-name player to get nicked up was running back Chris Ivory, who apparently played through an ankle sprain since the first carry of the game.
The fact that he nearly averaged 4.0 yards per carry is a testament to his toughness.
Linebacker Troy Davis suffered a scary chest contusion. According to Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com, Davis spent Sunday in a Baltimore hospital for "precautionary reasons." Despite the scary injury, Davis is considered to be day-to-day.
The good news for the Jets is that they have two dependable players, Darrin Walls and Bilal Powell, to replace Cromartie and Ivory, respectively, if they are unable to play next week. In fact, Walls may even be an upgrade over the hobbled Cromartie at this point.
What Must Improve: Pass Protection
The Jets can blame Geno Smith all they want for their offensive woes, but the truth is that there are few, if any, quarterbacks that would have been productive with the supporting cast the Jets trotted out on Sunday, starting with the pass protection as a whole—which includes the offensive line, running backs and tight ends.
On this play, tight end Jeff Cumberland is beat cleanly by a blitzing Albert McClellan, which ends the play before it even had a chance to start.
Cumberland is not known for his pedigree as a blocker, but he has to at least try to get in the way to disrupt the defender's path. Otherwise, he should not be kept in to protect at all.
Meanwhile, the offensive line has had plenty of faults of its own. Only center Nick Mangold kept a clean sheet against the Ravens, not allowing a quarterback hurry, hit or sack.
|Jets Offensive Line vs. Ravens|
|Player||QB Hurry||QB Hit||Sack Allowed|
The pass protection has been taking a steady dive ever since Brian Winters replaced Vladimir Ducasse at left guard in Week 5. It is impossible to pin all of the Jets' issues on Winters alone, but the fact that the protection has only gotten worse as the season has gone on is alarming to say the least.
What Must Improve: Receiver Play
The other major factor playing into the Jets' inept passing attack is the complete inability of the receiving corps to help out its young quarterback.
Even with Santonio Holmes in the lineup, the Jets receiving corps may be the single worst group in the league. Without Jeremy Kerley to bail him out in the slot, Geno Smith completed just three passes to his wide receivers (two to Greg Salas, one to Holmes) all afternoon.
The Jets receivers have hardly been working with stellar quarterback play, but there is no excuse for their inability to get any kind of separation on a relatively consistent basis. When they do get open, they have a maddening tendency to drop even the easiest of passes.
According to Pro Football Focus, even Santonio Holmes, the Jets' most reliable target, dropped two passes in Sunday's game.
Stephen Hill, who has started to see a major decline in playing time, has yet to catch a pass in nearly a month—his last catch game in an October 27 game against the Bengals. Greg Salas, who was claimed off the Eagles' practice squad in the middle of the season, has emerged as the Jets' most reliable target.
What Must Improve: Deep Pass Defense
The Jets brought in Ed Reed in a desperate effort to shore up their vulnerable secondary.
So far, the move has backfired, as they have continued to allow deep passes at an alarming rate—something that the Jets cannot allow to happen given the state of their sputtering offense.
Outside of one long pass to Torrey Smith against decent coverage by Antonio Cromartie, the Jets cornerbacks were much-improved. Even Dee Milliner had a relatively strong outing, almost notching his first interception early in the game.
Where the Jets have gone wrong is their handling of Ed Reed. Reed was largely responsible for the long touchdown to Jacoby Jones. Reed, not knowing exactly where he was, actually wound up hindering Milliner (who had decent position on the play) from making a play. In other words, Reed would have been better if he had just given up on the play entirely.
However, the Jets are at fault for putting Reed in such a situation in the first place.
It was clear to anyone who watched Reed this year that his days of being a terror as a center field roamer were over. Instead of using Reed in a rotational role to minimize his speed deficiency, the Jets forced him into a starting role—with predictable results.
Not only is Reed costing the Jets with his play on the back end, but his insertion into the lineup is also taking Antonio Allen, one of the few bright spots in the Jets' young secondary, off the field.
The easy solution for the Jets is to flip the playing time of Allen and Reed. The trouble is, Rex Ryan is far too loyal to his former players, especially one as accomplished as Reed, to simply send them to the bench.
As bad as the Jets have played in recent weeks, the encouraging news is that many of their issues are correctable—as long as the Jets are willing to do what it necessary to correct them.
Advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required).
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