They’re sitting at 1-5 after a Monday night trouncing, but NFL Network’s analytics expert believes better times are ahead for the New York Jets.
According to one of professional football’s most renowned analytics experts, the dawn may soon be coming for the New York Jets.
In her weekly report for NFL.com, Cynthia Frelund marks the Jets as her “sleeper team” headed into Week 8 of the NFL season. Frelund fully takes into account the Jets’ listless 33-0 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots on Monday night into consideration. But, armed with her analytical model, she provides reasoning for a revolution on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Frelund believes the Jets will take advantage of a trade Sunday’s opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, made that sent All-Pro defender Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams. The departure helps contribute to the statistical fact that the Jets’ remaining schedule “features the second-lowest combined unit win shares of opposing defenses”.
Frelund’s theory dictates that a combination of weak defenses, plus the full-time return of quarterback Sam Darnold, will play to the Jets’ advantage not just on Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS), but for the rest of the year.
“While the Jets currently rank last in yards per play (3.75), remember that this average includes the three games Sam Darnold missed with mono,” she explains. “When you combine the Jets’ potential ability to run efficiently against the Jaguars’ defense (Jacksonville is allowing 4.98 yards per rush on first down, fifth highest) and Darnold’s ability to connect with receivers deep, this game projects to be won through big plays and start the Jets’ ascent to 15th in yards per play by season’s end.”
Defensively, Frelund’s Sunday key for the Jets will be stopping Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew. The sixth-round pick has filled in well for injured veteran Nick Foles, currently leading rookie passers in rating (95.7) and touchdown passes (10). Frelund’s model predicts the Jets’ run defense (which she mentions allows 3.25 yard per attempt, second-best in the league) is projected to shut down Leonard Fournette, leaving Minshew as Jacksonville’s ultimate weapon.
“While stopping the run is an area of success … the Jets have stopped the pass only intermittently,” Frelund notes. “This week against the Jags, the Jets project to slow Leonard Fournette enough to force more obvious passes. Deep passing for both teams, especially when it comes to limiting the success of Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew, is likely to be the key to this game.”
The Jets’ visit to Jacksonville begins a stretch of seven straight games where the Jets face an opponent currently outside the playoff bracket. Only the Jaguars and Oakland Raiders (who await the Jets on Nov. 24 in East Rutherford) are within striking distance of a playoff spot.
This stretch also features three games against winless teams (a divisional pair against Miami and a visit to Cincinnati). Their NFC portion will also be completed against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, who have a combined three wins among them.