Ryan Fitapatrick and the New York Jets fly to Houston to take on T.J. Yates and the very average Texans.
By Jeff Jarboe
All of the stars seemed to be aligned last Thursday when the Jets faced off against Rex Ryan in Metlife Stadium—Ryan Fitzpatrick was suiting up, the Kelly Green jerseys were blinding but beautiful, and New York seemed ready to take a firm hold on an AFC Wild Card spot and head into an easy matchup with Houston on 10 days rest.
Now, 10 days later, Rex is 1-0 against his former team, the Jets have lost three out of their last four games and head into Houston tied with Buffalo (5-4) for the second Wild Card spot (though they own the tiebreaker).
Not the start to the second half of the season that Todd Bowles had planned.
Luckily for Bowles, his team is heading into Houston on 10 days rest to play a Texans team that will be without their starting quarterback.
T.J. Yates will start for the concussed Brian Hoyer and boy is he going to have his work cut out for him against a New York secondary that is getting back one of their key players in strong safety Calvin Pryor III.
Pryor has been sidelined for the last month with a high ankle sprain that he suffered against New England, but will rejoin Revis and company this Sunday and try to put the Jets back on the winning track.
Behind Revis, Pryor was New York’s best playmaker in the secondary early on in the season, covering sideline to sideline in the passing game and coming up to make big stops in the running game.
Expect Todd Bowles to use a lot of different blitz packages against Houston today with his star studded secondary back in place.
Houston may be ranked a middling 15 in the league in total offense, but without Hoyer at quarterback and without Foster in the backfield, this team is lost.
Bowles will blitz Yates all day long and rely on the secondary to capitalize on his poor decisions. After that, it’s up to Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense to get the job done against J.J. Watt and company.
Having played with Houston last year, Fitzpatrick knows what to expect from the opposing pass rush so I don’t expect him to get sacked a lot unless the offensive line gets completely dominated (which I don’t expect to happen either). As long as the o-line holds up, Fitz is going to be getting the ball out quickly and will look to exploit the Kevin Johnson/Eric Decker matchup on the outside.
Johnson will matchup with Decker as Kareem Jackson misses his fourth straight game with a high ankle sprain and the rookie has been impressive in year one. Decker however, is having a pro bowl year back in his number two role with 42 catches for 552 yards and 7 touchdowns, so I expect big things out of number 87 today against the rookie Johnson.
Though Decker is in store for a big day in the passing game, overall I expect Chan Gailey to lean on the running game against the 25th ranked Houston run defense.
Ivory bounced back from his stretch of poor performances with a 99-yard rushing effort against Buffalo, and should be in-store for a big game against Houston’s poor run defense after 10 days of rest.
If Gailey can get Ivory going in the running game, the rest of the chips should fall in place. But I said all of this last week too.
The Jets should have beaten the Bills at home. Brandon Marshall should have had a big game against Buffalo’s poor (statistically) passing defense. But neither of these things happened.
With only seven games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs and a top-10 draft pick equal distances away at this point, the Jets have to win the games that they should win. And this is one of those games.
If they can get the job done on the road today, New York will have another easy matchup against almost-Jet Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans at home and will be right back atop the AFC playoff race.