Why the Jets will be a dangerous playoff opponent if they get in
All too often NFL Wild Card teams are simply the next two best teams from that particular conference, but the 2015 New York Jets could be a wild-card team in the truest sense of the term.
This is a team that may not be as good as several others in the playoff picture, but they have the right elements in place to cause better sides problems — and we saw no clearer illustration of that than their overtime win Sunday over the Patriots.
The Jets have one of the best defensive fronts in football, and have somehow produced a legitimate edge-rush presence this season despite having a line of essentially four defensive tackles on the field most of the time.
The combined listed weight of the starting four-man line of Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, Damon Harrison and Muhammad Wilkerson is 1,261 pounds, or an average of 315 per man. This in a league where edge rushers typically average 40, maybe 50 pounds lighter than that. The Jets have somehow been able to generate pass rush on the outside — something that has been a problem for them for years — by simply moving their best two interior rushers out there and letting them do to offensive tackles and tight ends what they were doing to guards and centers.
That legitimate edge threat has allowed Leonard Williams and Damon Harrison to dominate on the inside, and means the Jets have a defensive line that can cause even the best offensive lines in the league problems. One of the quirks of this year’s playoffs is that many of the teams likely to make the field do not have the best offensive lines in the league. In fact, many have among the poorer units in football.
We saw yesterday what the Jets could do to the Patriots offensive line, beating it for 10 total pressures even if they were unable to get Tom Brady to the ground (on a play charged to the line), and being even more dominant in the run game, but Denver’s line isn’t much better. Houston’s offensive line isn’t as bad as either New England’s or Denver’s, but is far from formidable, especially in certain spots, and the same can be said for Kansas City’s. In fact, the only team with a real chance of making the playoffs that could face the Jets in Round 1 that has an offensive line of any quality is Cincinnati.
The Bengals have three-fifths of a great line, with Andre Smith and Russell Bodine dragging it down from its previous heights.
On paper, the Jets defensive front has a crushing advantage over almost any of the AFC’s playoff teams in the trenches, giving the back end a huge boost in any game they play.
On the other side of the ball, Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be a great quarterback, but he gives his receivers chances to make plays more than any other passer in the league. That isn’t necessarily a compliment, in that it will result in some horrendous passes being thrown that have no business ever being attempted, but it does make him dangerous, and can result in a stretch of play where the results are fantastic.
In Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, Fitzpatrick has a pair of receivers who can take advantage of those passes and win 50-50 balls, generating production and big plays where other quarterbacks wouldn’t even take the shot.
Running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have both flashed big plays this season, and all of those pieces together to make this Jets offense extremely dangerous, if not consistently strong.
There may be better teams than the Jets heading into the postseason should they make it (and former head coach Rex Ryan has the chance to spoil it for them, if his Bills beat the Jets next week and the Steelers also win), but there are few as dangerous or well-crafted to exploit the weaknesses of the stronger teams on paper.
The Jets may earn themselves a Wild Card spot and prove to be a true wild-card team.