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NFL New York Jets

5 Strengths the New York Jets Need to Continue After the Bye

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5 Strengths the New York Jets Need to Continue After the Bye

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets have been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL season, and at 5-4 they are right in the middle of the playoff race. The Jets are far ahead of where anyone expected them to be at this stage of the season, and they hope they will keep surprising their preseason doubters.

Rex Ryan is well on his way to a contract extension, and he has his defense to thank. Muhammad Wilkerson is an absolute star, and he is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, while inside linebackers David Harris and b have been outstanding.

Offensively, the Jets have been very pleased with the development of rookie quarterback Geno Smith, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has done a fantastic job of mixing run and pass while managing his oft-injured personnel. Mornhinweg doesn’t get enough attention, and he may be the Jets’ best offseason addition.

The Jets have a lot to improve on in the second half of the season, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have strengths. In fact, the Jets have several key strengths that they need to continue down the stretch. Playoff teams know who they are and what they are good at, and for the Jets, that is defense and running the ball.

If the Jets are going to get into the postseason, the foundation needs to be the areas that they have already enjoyed success in. If the Jets can continue to have these five strengths, they will have a very good chance at making the playoffs.

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Pass Rush

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

One of the perks of having an elite defensive line is the pass rush that comes with it. The Jets are 8th in the NFL in sacks, and Wilkerson leads a long list of very disruptive pass rushers. Wilkerson has 8 sacks, tops on the team, while the rest of the sacks have been spread fairly evenly throughout the defense.

Ryan’s creative blitz schemes allow the Jets to create pressure from a variety of angles and with unpredictable personnel. The ability to get after the quarterback was a huge factor in the Jets’ upset wins over the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, and that trend must continue for the second half of the season.

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Run Defense

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This is the Jets’ greatest strength. They rank 1st in the league in both rush yards allowed per game and yards per attempt. The Jets have shut down every running back they’ve faced, and that ability forces opposing offenses to be one dimensional.

As the weather gets colder and games become more important and more intense, old school, run the ball, stop the run football will once again become more prevalent, which works perfectly for the Jets. The Jets face several solid rushing attacks down the stretch, but they have to like their chances against any opponent.

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Strong Run Game

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with the blueprint for success in cold weather football, the Jets have had a solid rushing attack for most of the season. The Jets tend to find their most offensive success when they are able control the clock and the ball, notably in their wins over the Patriots and Saints.

Chris Ivory has been improving rapidly, and he had a breakout game against the Saints on Sunday. Bilal Powell has also been solid, and they give the Jets a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield. Mornhinweg has shown a commitment to the run, and Ivory and Powell will be expected to play a huge role for the Jets the rest of the season.

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Success at Home

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best methods for NFL success is to make your home a fortress. The Jets have been able to do that thus far this season, going 4-1 at MetLife Stadium. They only have three home games left, and all of them are games the Jets should be favored in.

The Jets need to continue their home success, and a potential 7-1 home record would be a fantastic foundation for a playoff push. Given how tight the AFC Wild Card race is, the Jets cannot afford to give away any games. They are going to need every win they can get, and it starts at home.

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Winning Big Games

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Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

One area that has been particularly impressive for the Jets is their performance in big games. They have pulled three major upsets this season, defeating the Patriots, the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons (although that win doesn’t look nearly as impressive now as it did in Week 5). They also nearly beat the Patriots on the road back in Week 2.

The ability of Ryan and the coaching staff to get the team prepared for these games is impressive, and it will be a huge boost for them down the stretch. Towards the end of the season, every game is a big game with playoff implications, and the Jets have shown that they will rise to the occasion in those high pressure situations.

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