The Jets are the popular pick to go all the way this season, particularly here in New York. While the team made some good moves this brief off-season, a playoff berth is far from guaranteed. Here are my top ten reasons why the Jets will fail to make the playoffs this season:
10. Mark Sanchez
Is there a more over-hyped quarterback in the NFL? If Mark Sanchez weren’t in New York playing for Rex Ryan’s Jets, you would hardy hear about him. Seemingly filled with many intangible qualities, Sanchez raw ability as a quarterback is very average by NFL standards, with the potential to be very good. While he did show some moxy last season, leading his team to victory late in several games- he also had six games that resulted in a QB rating fewer than 60, and failed to throw more touchdowns than interceptions in his last five games. It will be interesting to see how much Sanchez can improve in what everyone is calling his critical third year as a pro. Much of his success will depend on the players around him. While I don’t expect him to lose many games this season, I wouldn’t expect him to win many on his own either- despite some of his late game performances last season. Some will argue that Mark simply has to manage the game, but in a conference filled with quarterbacks better equipped to carry their team when needed, I suspect “very good” will not be good enough.
9. Difficult Schedule
The Jets are third in the league among those with the toughest schedules, as their opponents had a .520 winning percentage last season. The Jets will be playing seven games against teams with a winning record last season. Weeks 3 through 5 will be particularly tough when the team must travel to Oakland, Baltimore and New England, not to mention their trip to Philadelphia in week 15. How the Jets perform in these games will go a long way to determining whether or not they make the playoffs.
How long before the Jets start believing the hype surrounding them? Two consecutive appearances in the AFC championship game does not guarantee the next step to the Super Bowl this season. An argument can be made that the Jets are no better (if not worse) than last season, while their division rival Patriots have improved after a 14-2 regular season. If the Jets play the season expecting to win, waiting to turn it on in the playoffs- they will be sadly mistaken. The Jets are primed to fall into this trap during the regular season.
7. Depth at Offensive Line
Although the Jets starting offensive line can be considered one of the strengths of the team, you are only as good as your weakest link. Right tackle Wayne Hunter started five games replacing Damien Woody last season, and did an admiral job. Still, at 30 years old and a full season ahead of him for the first time- his ability to stay healthy and perform at a high level throughout an entire season are valid questions. More importantly, the lack of quality depth will almost certainly present problems this season. The line will be in particular trouble if a starter goes down for any extended period. Robert Turner is already out indefinitely, while the inconsistent Vladimir Ducasse and Matt Slauson do not provide much confidence at the position, nor do Colin Baxter and rookie Caleb Schlauderaff. A beefed up Patriots defensive line with Albert Haynesworth will certainly be looking to take advantage.
6. The New Kickoff Rule
The NFL has instituting a new rule this year that has moved the kickoff line up 5 yards to the 35-yard line. With Brad Smith gone and touchbacks expected to increase, the Jets field position will suffer greatly. The Jets relied heavily on their kick return game last season, winning three games (including a playoff game) as a result of long kickoff returns. Smith consistently helped the Jets start their drives in good field position, leading the league in kick-return average with 28.6 yards per attempt. The Jets’ average drive after kickoffs started at 31.5 yard line- also best in the league last season. For a team that depended so much on solid field position, you can expect this new rule to have quite a negative effect on the team’s ability to put points on the board.
5. Competitve AFC Conference
When you consider the strength of the Patriots, Steelers, Ravens and Chargers, as well as the improved Texans, Titans, Browns and Raiders in the AFC; it is very likely the Jets will have to win the division to make the playoffs. A tough task once again indeed, perhaps evens more so than the past two seasons when they were only able to claim a wildcard birth. A split with the Patriots will certainly be a tough task this season, and that still might not be good enough to claim the division.
4. Lack of A Pass Rush
We’ve heard a lot of this the past few seasons. It is somewhat surprising that Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum has still not been able to add anything close to a premier pass rusher to the defensive line for his Rex Ryan coached team. Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha have taken over the leadership roles from Shaun Ellis, Jason Taylor and Trevor Pryce. Rookies Kenrick Ellis and Muhammad Wilkerson will be counted on greatly to improve upon what was a pretty poor pass rush last season. Without the OTA’s this past off-season, the rookies are at an additional disadvantage. Relying on these rookies to provide such an important element of a successful defense is a big risk. The Jets defensive line will again struggle mightily to get to the quarterback. All-star cornerback Darrelle Revis coverage ability will help give the Jets line more time to get to the quarterback, but if Revis goes down for any period of time, the Jets pass rush will be non-existent unless Rex brings everything but the kitchen sink.
3. Reliance on Plaxico Burress
Plaxico’s height and athleticism alone allows him to tower over defenders and grab balls many other receivers in this league simply are not capable of catching. The biggest question right now for Plax will be his ability to stay healthy throughout the season. There is no doubt his signing is a high risk/reward move for the Jets. Plaxico has been away from the game for nearly three years. I would not count on him making it through the season injury free. If and when he goes down, the Jets offense will suffer greatly. Without Plaxico, the team will have serious problems putting the ball into the end zone, particularly in the red zone. Santonio Holmes will often see double-coverage and there will be no one there to help pick up the slack- not even Derrick Mason and his 37-year old legs.
2. The Running Game
A huge question for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, especially one that claims to be of the “ground and pound” variety. Shonn Greene will be asked to carry the load, even though he has never played an entire season as the team’s featured back. If Greene can stay healthy and limit his fumbles, perhaps he can be a decent running back in this league. I think most would agree that Greene is hardly on the cusp of being an elite back. LaDainian Tomlinson is another year older, while Joe McNight and rookie Bilal Powell cannot be counted on for major contributions. If the Jets fail to consistently establish a running game, Sanchez use of the play-action pass will be much less effective, and the Jets offense will often be stuck in neutral.
1. Same Old Jets!
Jets fans are most familiar with this phrase, and until the team wins another Super Bowl- it will certainly rear its ugly head once again. Typically, the Jets have their best seasons when expectations are low. The minute the Jets and their fans have a glimmer of hope, those dreams are promptly squashed. Why would you think this season is going to be any different?