By Brad Carroll
For those with an optimistic view, the New York Jets still have a shot to make the postseason. It won't be easy, obviously, as the team that hasn't won a game since Week 1 will need to win eight of their last nine to even have a chance at the AFC East or one of the wild cards. But having a chance means having life, and that's what the Jets can hold on to over the next several weeks
While the Jets shouldn't have to be perfect the rest of the way, they can't afford to lose their seventh straight game against Buffalo Sunday. If the Jets lose against the Bills, the season truly is over and the rest of the year will merely be one big audition for Geno Smith to be the starting quarterback going forward. Rex Ryan certainly will be fired as the team's head coach.
The Jets have lost six straight games, but they have played well in the last two, against the Broncos and Patriots. The Jets had the ball with a chance to tie Denver late, but couldn't finish the comeback. Against New England, the Jets had a potential game-winning field goal blocked on the final play of the game last week. That's the good news, if there is such a thing, from a long losing streak.
The Bills are 4-3 and sit one game back of the Patriots for first place in the AFC East. Buffalo took the exact opposite approach of the Jets this season, as they benched E.J. Manuel for veteran Kyle Orton, something the Jets refuse to do with Smith and Michael Vick. Last week, Orton hit Sammy Watkins for a game-winning touchdown with one second left to beat the Vikings 17-16. The Bills are 2-1 since the switch in quarterbacks.
But Buffalo is hurting this week and comes into MetLife Stadium as three-point underdogs. The team's top two running backs, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, won't play Sunday. That gives the Jets a huge edge, as they can help out their porous defensive backfield while not having to worry completely about the Buffalo rushing attack.
It's a must-win game for the Jets and here are the three ways they can make it happen. Read our Jets-Bills game predictions here and follow us on Twitter for all of our Jets news, analysis and picks.
Don't Let Orton Beat You
The Bills' rushing attack is in trouble, as Jackson and Spiller will miss the game with injuries, meaning Orton will have to carry the team to victory on the road. In a 17-14 win over the Lions three weeks ago, in his first start, Orton completed 30-of-43 passes for 308 yards with a touchdown and interception. In a 37-22 loss to the Patriots, Orton went 24-for-38 with 299 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception. Finally, in a 17-16 win over the Vikings, Orton completed 31-of-43 for 283 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Orton still has what it takes to win games, especially when he has a huge playmaker in Sammy Watkins to throw to. The Jets will have the luxury of focusing on stopping the passing attack and not worrying as much about the Buffalo running game, which is the opposite of what the game plan would be if Jackson and Spiller were playing. That's an advantage the Jets have to exploit. This could also be a time for the Jets defensive backs, the worst collection in the league, to finally make plays to help the team and not just hurt it. Orton has thrown an interception in each of his three starts this year. The Jets need to get at least one Sunday.
The Percy Effect
The Jets aren't letting on how much or where newly-acquired Percy Harvin will play Sunday in his debut, but they have to find a way to get him involved in every aspect of the offense and special teams. On offense, Harvin is automatically the team's biggest playmaker and will be a weapon Smith hasn't had in his two years. Harvin can obviously catch the ball, but he's also a threat running it as well. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can't waste time getting Harvin acclimated to the team or the game specifically, the wide receiver needs to be on the field as much as possible. On special teams, the Jets should use Harvin as both the kick returner, a role he seems to relish, and punt returner as well. The Jets stink in the return game, putting novices to receive kicks and expecting solid results. The results have been disastrous. With Harvin returning punts and kicks, the Jets have a potential game-changer who they can also trust not to fumble the ball. It might be expecting a lot of Harvin this quickly, but what do the Jets have to lose in playing him a ton right from the get-go? Nothing.
No More Field Goals, Time For Touchdowns
The main reason the Jets lost to the Patriots last Thursday was because they couldn't convert long drives into touchdowns, settling instead for field goals. The Jets scored on all four of their possessions in the first half against New England, but went into halftime with just 12 points on the board. The Jets held the ball for 7:02 on their first possession, reaching the New England 4 before kicking a field goal. They held it for 5:22 and got to the Patriots' 29 on the following drive before kicking another field goal. The Jets reached the New England 28 after a drive that lasted 6:18, but another field goal was the result. Finally, the Jets got to the Patriots' 9 after a 3:21 drive, kicking their fourth field goal. The Jets finally scored a touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter to take a 19-17 lead. But five scoring drives adding up to just 19 points seems impossible. The Jets are 30th in the league in scoring touchdowns in the red zone, doing so just 40.91% of the time. They score touchdowns just 33.33% of the time at home. The Jets have to find a way to get into the end zone or they will lose their seventh straight game and the rest of the season will be completely meaningless.