Where Will the New York Jets' Roller Coaster End?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer INovember 3, 2013

You win some, you lose some. If you’re the New York Jets, though, you win one, you lose one.

That’s been the pattern of their season so far, so accurate you could set a watch by it, and the trend continued with a big 26-20 win over the New Orleans Saints this week.

The Jets weren’t supposed to be even close to competitive in this game, with even head coach Rex Ryan predicting that quarterback Drew Brees could throw for over 700 yards against them unless they played better than they had the previous week against the Cincinnati Bengals.

It is nearly impossible to get a good read on the Jets this season. What are they?

The answer, it seems, is that they are a team in transition that is scrapping out wins, and could be in the hunt for a playoff spot until the end of the season. 

Will they make the playoffs? At .500, not likely. Are there enough winnable games down the stretch to get the Jets over that nine-win mark? Yes, but only if the up the roller-coaster ride finally hits a high point and stays there.

Jets defense
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The defense has been up and down, bending but not breaking against the Patriots and Falcons, but bending and breaking to the will of the Steelers and Bengals.

It's perplexing to watch the Jets defense give up five touchdowns, one interception and a 125.7 passer rating to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton one week, then follow up by holding Brees to two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 79.0 passer rating. They made one game-changing play after another against the Saints, logging those two picks as well as two sacks, and held them to 3-of-11 on third down. 

For all the woes of the offense over the years, the Jets have been able to rely on their defense. As of right now, that unit is too erratic to expect week-to-week consistency. That being said, strong outings against the Patriots and Saints suggest the foundation is there to build a strong unit once again.

Geno Smith

Offensively, and as a team, the Jets seem to take on the identity of quarterback Geno Smith, winning when he plays well (seven touchdowns, four interceptions in five wins) and losing when he plays poorly (one touchdown, nine interceptions in four losses). Even the quarterback hasn’t been an accurate predictor of the Jets' success, though, as Smith completed just 42.1 percent of his passes against the Saints Sunday.

Geno may be considerably less erratic offensively if they had their key players in place. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has been out for a while, and tight end Jeff Cumberland missed the Saints game with a concussion. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley left the game with an elbow injury and did not return. Getting any or all of those players back will help the Jets find some offensive consistency.

In light of that, the Jets may have found something they can rely on, though, in a running game that picked up a whopping 199 yards against the Saints Sunday, behind Chris Ivory’s 139-yard rushing effort. In weeks past, though, the Jets haven’t been able to get the ground game moving.

Indeed, this team seems impossible to predict—except, at the same time, the Jets become easier and easier to predict with each alternating win and loss.

Jets remaining schedule
11at Buffalo Bills3-6
12at Baltimore Ravens3-5
13vs. Miami Dolphins4-4
14vs. Oakland Raiders3-5
15at Carolina Panthers5-3
16vs. Cleveland Browns4-5
17at Miami Dolphins4-4

The Jets enter the bye week on a high note, and with games against the Bills, Raiders and Browns still left on the schedule, there's still a good chance this team gets to eight wins.

The other games, however, offer less certainty, with road contests against the Ravens, Dolphins and a better-than-expected Panthers team.

If the Jets continue on this back-and-forth track, they'll finish at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. They haven't been able to string two wins together since Weeks 13 and 14 of the 2012 season, and before that, from Weeks 12-14 of the 2011 season. So, it's been a while since the Jets have consistently strung together wins. 

The Jets would probably need at least nine wins to get into the postseason, but with a race for the sixth seed in the AFC that includes the Chargers (4-3), Dolphins (4-4), Titans (3-4), Browns (4-5) and Ravens (3-5), even a .500 record might be enough—but the Jets can't bank on it. At 5-4, the Jets currently hold the keys to their own fate.

Say what you will about the teams holes, but the Jets have the toughness and the "fight" of any of the best teams in the NFL. The Jets get punched; they answer right back. 

Those qualities by themselves won't get the Jets into the postseason, but if they can figure everything else out, that toughness will certainly help.

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.


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