The New York Jets finally got into the win column again last week with a 24-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens last week, and with the winless Cleveland Browns up next, they should put a little win streak together just by showing up, right?
Well, it’s not so simple as all that.
There are still a lot of issues when it comes to the Jets this season—Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ever present turnovers, a lackluster pass rush and an inconsistent game plan on both sides of the ball all come to mind—and the one which can sink them even against the winless Browns is big plays.
The Jets are awful against the pass (No. 31 in Football Outsiders DVOA metric, No. 26 statistically overall), allowing an average of 282.7 net passing yards allowed per game (27th in the NFL) with 13 passing touchdowns given up compared to four interceptions.
The defense is particularly awful on longer throws, especially deep passes. They are tied for tenth in the NFL on completed passing plays of 20-plus yards allowed and tied for first with nine pass plays of more than 40 plus yards this season.
There are a lot of reasons the Jets have lost five games this year, but big plays over the top are a huge factor.
Even against the lowly Browns.
The threat to take the top off the Jets secondary this week comes in the form of Tyrelle Pryor. A versatile, dynamic weapon, the former quarterback has really taken big steps at the wide receiver position this season and has averaged 12.3 yards per catch this year.
He has the speed and athleticism to get past the Jets corners and if not exactly score 70-yard touchdowns, find a way to extend a drive on third and long. The Jets give up a lot of first downs to pass plays (their 97 first downs allowed to pass plays is tied for sixth in the NFL this year), and a fair amount of them come on third downs, so for the Jets it’s not just about stopping the odd big play, but the big play on third down.
If the defensive front does a good job getting to the quarterback and their usual bang-up job against the run—and the Browns offensive line is weak, so the defense should achieve both things—then it’s up to the secondary to force that third down to fail.
That comes down to containing those big plays.
Last week, the Jets defense looked a lot more like what we expected, keeping Joe Flacco to 239 yards passing, two interceptions thrown and no touchdowns. Despite that, they still allowed three passes of over 20 yards and ten of more than 10 yards.
In the case of the Ravens, this is a defense which played better but the same problems which have plagued them all season were still there.
This is a game the Jets should win on paper, but this is a team which has repeatedly underperformed and under-impressed. Right now, you can argue they may not really be all that better than the Browns and if they cannot stop the deep pass, there might be physical proof of that at the end of the day.