by Paul West
The New York Jets are alive, but just barely.
At the midway point of the NFL season, the Jets can thank fortuitous scheduling for a chance to resuscitate a season in which they’ve floundered and disappointed. The Jets sit at 2-5, in fourth place in the AFC East, with a miserable minus-61 point differential. Their incumbent quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, has been preposterously bad, throwing six interceptions in a Week 3 loss. Geno Smith was given a chance to reclaim his old position, and performed middlingly before tearing his ACL in his first start of the season. And Eric Decker, who last year combined with Brandon Marshall to post one of the best years a pair of wideouts has ever recorded, is done for the year with a shoulder injury and hip surgery. As if that wasn’t enough: future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis has been hobbled by nagging injuries and looks like a shadow of his former self, recently confessing “my body’s breaking down;” center Nick Mangold is battling an injured ankle, as is defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson; and Marshall has battled a lingering foot injury that’s seemed to limit his effectiveness.
Fortunately, the Jets go to Cleveland today, to face the 0-7 Cleveland Browns. The Browns have been injury-riddled and ghastly, and they present the Jets with an opportunity to inch closer toward contention while the AFC’s contenders face tougher matchups. The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills face each other this afternoon, as do the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. The 4-2 Kansas City Chiefs face the 3-4 Indianapolis Colts, and the Oakland Raiders go to Tampa to play the surprisingly tough Bucs. if the Jets can pull to 3-5, they’ll be on the back end of the playoff picture with half the season to go. if not, their year is all but over.
Aside from the game’s strategic importance, the Jets are in no position to take the Browns lightly. The Jets have been terrible against the pass for most of the year, and tight end Gary Barnidge and dual threat Terrelle Pryor Sr. are capable of producing headache for defenses. They’ll have to pressure quarterback Josh McCown, and contain running back Isaiah Crowell, to keep pressure off of their ailing and struggling secondary. Matt Forte will have to have a big day to help carry the offense, and pleasant surprise Quincy Enunwa will have to use his size and speed to provide balance to the passing game. Moreover, there’s no other way to put it: today’s game is a test the Jets must pass. With all due respect to the the Browns’ professionalism and will to win, if the Jets lose this game, they’ll have cemented the perception that they’re undeserving of a playoff berth.