Ryan Fitzpatrick has been bad, but Jets can still contend
The Jets are 3-1 and might be the only team in the AFC East capable of challenging the Patriots. While the Dolphins implode, and the Bills can’t quite string it together for long enough to keep a winning streak going, the Jets look good enough to win even when the worst version of Ryan Fitzpatrick turns up, as happened in London against Miami this weekend.
Ryan Fitzpatrick earned a -6.3 passing grade, the lowest of the week for any quarterback this week, thanks to some horrendous decisions with the ball. He completed just 55.2 percent of his passes and threw for only 218 yards, but it is the plays that weren’t necessarily counted that really build up the disastrous score.
In addition to the one awful pick he did throw, there were four other extremely dangerous throws that could have resulted in turnovers, including one that was actually dropped by a defender (Zackary Bowman, the same player that did pick him off later in the game).
That’s about as badly as Fitzpatrick (or most QBs) can play, and yet the Jets still won, by two scores. A lot of that is due to Miami’s 2015 synchronized collapse, but a lot of it also down to the players around Fitzpatrick performing.
Chris Ivory when healthy is an excellent running back, and he will do well to have a better game than this. 29 carries saw him notch 166 rushing yards and a touchdown, but he needed to generate 110 of those yards himself after first contact. He did that by forcing nine missed tackles along the way, averaging 3.8 yards per carry after contact.
With Fitzpatrick playing the way he was, the passing game was never going to be red hot, but Brandon Marshall (in this game) and Eric Decker (over the season) have been playing well. Marshall was impressive against his old team, catching seven of the 11 targets sent his way for 128 yards, with 58 of them coming after the catch. First-round pick Devin Smith’s year has been derailed by a bad injury before the season even began, but his potential to make an impact on this offense later is real.
On defense the Jets have performers at every level. Cornerback Darrelle Revis has been back to his best this season, allowing just 45 percent of the passes thrown his way to be caught for a passer rating of 23.8, while David Harris looks reborn in a defensive scheme a little kinder to its linebackers than Rex Ryan’s.
Up front, Muhammad Wilkerson has been doing much of the heavy lifting this season, but rookie Leonard Williams exploded into action against Miami, notching four hits and six hurries in that game alone. Playing against Jamil Douglas at RG for the Dolphins certainly helped that performance, but that’s now two good performances in a row for Williams, and he has yet to have a bad game.
The Jets certainly have their problems, of which Fitzpatrick is chief among them if he repeats performances like the one against Miami, but they have proven they can win in spite of his worst play. If they can get more of the kind of performances he had over the first two weeks of the season, then they can still push the Patriots for the division.