The New York Jets have been one of the pleasant surprises in this young NFL season, getting off to a 2-1 start with home wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills and a narrow road defeat to the New England Patriots. The Jets are back on the road this week, heading to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans, also a positive surprise at 2-1.
This game is a crossroads for the Jets, and it will determine what direction they take for the rest of the season. If the Jets want to have any shot at being even a fringe playoff contender, these are the types of games they need to win. Getting to 3-1 would be huge, because the next five weeks of their schedule will be very difficult.
A loss for the Jets could send them on a downward spiral towards being the team that many observers thought they would be. Or, it could be a sign that this is a team that will finish 7-9 or 8-8, winning all the easy games and losing all the hard ones. Either way, that is not the type of season the Jets are looking for, and it is not the type of season that will save Rex Ryan’s job.
Tennessee is going to focus their attack heavily on Chris Johnson and the run game, which plays to the Jets’ strengths. The Jets have had one of the best run defenses in the NFL this season, and they are coming off a game in which they held speedster C.J. Spiller to 9 yards on 10 carries. The Jets want to keep Johnson in check and force Jake Locker to beat them.
Offensively, the Jets need to eliminate the turnovers that have plagued them this season. The Titans have a very good defense, so Geno Smith will need to be careful with ball. The Jets are coming off one of their best offensive games in years, and if Smith, Santonio Holmes, Bilal Powell and the rest of the offense can even come close to replicating that performance the Jets should win.
It is too early in the season for true must win games, but this game is still absolutely crucial for the Jets’ season. These are the types of games that good teams win, and if the Jets want people to believe their start is not a fluke, they need to go out and win it.