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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Pittsburgh Steelers

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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets head into their Week 6 matchup with Pittsburgh Steelers with quite a bit of positive momentum. They are coming off a big upset win over the Atlanta Falcons, and they return home to face a team that is 0-4 and was called the worst team in the NFL by its own quarterback.

Every piece of statistical evidence points to the Jets winning this game. They have a great rushing attack, while the Steelers are very poor against the run. The Jets’ Achilles’ heel has been turnovers, but the Steelers haven’t even forced one.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers give up a ton of sacks, perfect for the Jets’ top notch pass rush. Also, Pittsburgh is the worst team in the league at running the ball, while the Jets rank second in run defense.

However, this is still a veteran Pittsburgh team that has a lot of experience and knows how to win. This is a classic trap game, and the Jets must be careful not to lose focus and let a very winnable game slip through their grasp.

Geno Smith played great on Monday, and the Jets want to see him continue to perform at that level. They will still be without top receiver Santonio Holmes, so look for the Jets to try to establish the run and for Smith to spread the ball around to numerous targets when they do throw.

Defensively, the Jets are 2nd in the NFL in yards allowed per game, but 15th in points per game. Some of that is due to the offense’s turnovers setting up opponents with short fields, but the Jets would still like to get the scoring defense to match the yardage.

This game is a big opportunity for the Jets to advance to 4-2, and they must take advantage of it.

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Can Geno Smith Continue Strong Play?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Smith had by far the best game of his career Monday, completing 16/20 passes for 199 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs. It was the first turnover free game of his young career, and it showed the passer that Smith can be when he protects the football.

The Steelers’ defense is a shell of the dominant unit it was 3 or 4 years ago, and Smith should be able to take advantage of them. He needs to continue to play turnover free football and spread the ball around, and if he does that the Jets should have no problem putting up points.

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Time for Quinton Coples to Step Up

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have arguably the best front seven in football, as all of their young players are having breakout seasons while all the veterans have had resurgent ones. The one guy missing from that equation has been Quinton Coples, last year’s first round pick.

Coples missed the first couple weeks with an ankle injury, but he has been receiving significant playing time since. Coples was expected to be the Jets’ leading pass rusher, and with Antwan Barnes’ injury the Jets need him to step up. The Steelers have a porous offensive line, and this could be the perfect game for Coples to break out.

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Pass Defense Must Improve

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have had one of the best defenses in the NFL all season, ranking 2nd in total yards per game and 2nd in rush yards per game. However, the pass defense has lagged behind just a bit, as they rank 13th in that category.

The Jets have struggled the last two weeks in particular, and as good as Antonio Cromartie is, he is still not Darrelle Revis. Unfortunately, Cromartie hyper-extended his knee in practice yesterday and is questionable for Sunday, as is rookie corner Dee Milliner.

The Steelers are going to try to beat the Jets through the air, and stopping them will be difficult without their two top corners. Hopefully at least Cromartie will be able to play, as the Jets need to improve their ability to defend the pass.

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Focus and Discipline are Essential

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The major storyline for the Jets this season has been their struggle with turnovers, sacks and penalties. On Monday, they improved in those areas, with no turnovers, two sacks and six penalties for 24 yards. The Jets can get even better, and reducing those mental mistakes will go a long way towards winning games.

Continuing with the mental aspect, the coaching staff must keep their young team focused on the task at hand and ensure they avoid the trap. The Jets are still excited about their win over Atlanta, and they know they face the New England Patriots next week. It is the coaches’ responsibility to keep the team focused on the here and now, because the Jets need this win.

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Will Jets Prove Worthy of Playoff Talk?

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The hot topic of discussion around the Jets this week is whether or not they can be a legitimate playoff contender. They are one of 10 AFC teams with either a 3-2 or 2-3 record, and it will soon be time for the real contenders to separate themselves.

Playoff teams don’t lose to 0-4 opponents at home, period. If the Jets want to prove that the Falcons game was no fluke and that they really are ready to challenge for a wild card spot, they need to win this game. After this they face a brutal three weeks, so beating Pittsburgh is absolutely crucial to any playoff chances.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google