Breaking Down the Jets vs the Texans
Another week and another last minute win for the Jets who now travel back home to take on the desperate Houston Texans, whose season is on the brink of falling apart.
Jets Defense vs. Texans Offense
If there is one thing that Houston can do it is to move the football and score points. While this is not the prolific attack most people anticipated when they season began they are a borderline top 10 offense with a few great weapons at their disposal. The real star of the offense is surprisingly RB Arian Foster, who leads the NFL in rushing yards and is only one of two players to average more than 100 yards a game. Foster is a workhorse player that can get into the open field and make players miss. He is always a threat for an occasional big play and is also a factor in the passing game. He is the only main skill player that is completely healthy for the game. The Texans passing game has grown even more reliant on WR Andre Johnson, arguably the best wide receiver in the game, and Johnson is hurting with an ankle injury. Johnson is a monster target with tremendous hands and speed and is the guy that makes the passing attack click. QB Matt Schaub has not had a great season with his yardage totals down over 40 yards a game this season. Schaub was expected to do more and has played as a frontrunner this season. When things are good so is Schaub. In his wins he is completing over 67% of his passes for 275 YPG and has 8 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. His losses see him at 62% for 243 yards with 5 interceptions and only 4 scores. The situational pressure in the losses seems to turn Schaub into a terrible decision maker who tries to force the ball into places where it should not go. He is nursing a knee injury and for an immobile QB with a porous offensive line that is not a good sign for him. Houston has lacked the big secondary target in the passing game all season. WR Kevin Walter is the number 2 target in the offense and averages over 3 less catches and nearly 60 less yards per game than Johnson. Walter is putting up the worst numbers of his career since becoming a viable player with the Texans 4 years ago. Speedy WR Jacoby Jones has been ground to a halt and been unable to get open down the field. When he does get open he drops the football and is mainly a short game target right now. TE Owen Daniels has basically become a nonfactor in the offense after last seasons injury. It is likely that he will not play this week due a hamstring making former Jet TE Joel Dressen get the start. The offensive line has played very well in the running game and is arguably the best unit in the NFL in that respect. They do a good job of opening holes for Foster and springing him into the secondary. In pass protection it is a different story. Only twice has Schaub not been sacked this season and in every other game he has been sacked multiple times. They do not do very well against speed on the outside nor picking up blitzes. LT Duane Browne is having a terrible season, allowing over a sack a game this season, and is often overpowered at the point of attack.
It was a very up and down game for the defense last week. They played terrible in the first quarter then played great in the second half before allowing the Browns to drive right down the field as time expired to send the game into overtime. It was the usual problems that seem to occur every week that were the cause of the problems- poor safety play, no pass rush and lack of a nickel corner. There were still a good deal of positives. The CB tandem of Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis looks to be one of the best in the NFL. The Jets ILB's Bart Scott and David Harris both did a good job in keeping RB Peyton Hillis in check. The team also forced two fumbles that were the keys to the win. What the defense is lacking is that real star athlete that can make an impact in the game. Revis and Cromartie can be those players, but if teams don't throw on them they can't make a play on the football. The Jets are right at the bottom of the NFL in interceptions, only ahead of the awful Buffalo Bills, which is the one area where a ball hawk safety or a linebacker with good hands might be useful. While everyone on the defensive line is solid, they lack the big pass rusher that can just beat a player one on one. LB Jason Taylor has looked like the older version from last year rather than the younger star of years past. That is not to say he can not be effective, because he can get to the QB from time to time, but there is no consistency to it. He does not generate constant pressure. OLB Calvin Pace has been a big disappointment. The Jets expected a lot and have gotten little from him. Pace is not 100%, but he is almost invisible on the field. Even when he makes a play they are the most quiet tackles or sacks you will see. If one of those two players found a way to step up their games the defense could be great again, instead they are very good. Expect some tinkering with the secondary this week as the Jets look for an answer at safety opposite Jim Leonhard and a 3rd corner to take the job. Last week we saw a steady dose of both Brodney Pool and Eric Smith, neither of whom played well, at safety and Drew Coleman and Kyle Wilson at corner.
The Jets had great success against Houston last season when they just blew the doors off the offensive line with their blitzing. The Texans were totally unprepared for the aggressiveness of the defense and Schaub went into a shell and had a terrible game. Last season Revis began opening the eyes of the NFL nation when he played Johnson one on one and completely neutralized him. Revis has not played as well this season but has come on strong in recent week and basically been avoided by the opposition. Houston is so reliant on Johnson and want to see Revis beat so badly that its almost a given that Revis will be thrown on. If Revis again wins the battle and finally gets a chance to pick off the football it will be a great sign for New York. Houston is not going to come out and go 3, 4, and 5 wide which means the Jets can hopefully use their blitz more than these last few weeks where they decided to play more zone coverage. The key will be to get Taylor and Pace one on one with Browne and RT Eric Winston allowing them to set the edge and get to the QB. Schaub is not a threat to run with the football which should also allow the Jets to bring pressure from the middle with Harris and Scott rather than using them as a spy. The Jets players along the defensive line should all be stronger than the Texans players, who are more of a finesse group and need to play a very physical game. The one thing that the team must do on defense is contain Foster with the bigger worry being in the passing game. RB Jahvid Best of the Detroit Lions nearly beat the Jets as a receiver two weeks ago when Harris and Scott could not keep up with him. Foster has that same type of ability and responsibility in the offense. The team can't allow him to get open for a big play. The Jets run defense has been stellar this season and teams that have played physical football up front are the ones who have shut him down. Defensively this game can be won with mental toughness as much as anything else. Everyone knows the Texans are a soft and fragile team. If the Jets come out in the first quarter by stopping Foster from running the ball, hitting Schaub a few times, and not allowing a reception to Johnson that “here we go again” mentality will creep into the Texans head from the game they had last season. That terrible opening game has to weigh highly on the minds of the Texans which the Jets have to use to their advantage by coming out just like they did last year and taking the heart right out of the team.
Jets Offense vs. Texans Defense
There is almost nothing positive to say about the Texans defense. They are terrible in every facet of the game. They have yet to hold a team under 24 points, don't pressure the QB, don't stop the pass, don't stop the run, and don't create turnovers. There is some individual talent on the team but they do not play as a team. The team had invested heavily in their defensive line and the results have not been there. DE Mario Williams has the potential to be a great pass rusher in the league, but is lazy at times and has all but disappeared these last few games. DT Amobi Okoye has never panned out as a pass rusher though he is adequate at controlling his spot on the line on run plays . DE Antonio Smith might be the best all around player up front with the ability to play both run and pass as well as switching inside and out on the line. The best player on the defense is NJ native MLB Brian Cushing. Cushing, last years Defensive Rookie of the Year, was forced to sit out for the first four weeks for using a banned substance but has played very well since returning. Cushing has a great knack for sniffing out runners and last week had 9 solo tackles against the Jaguars. LB Zac Diles provides solid support in the run defense and short passing defense, but clearly the team misses MLB DeMeco Ryans which forced the team to move players around. The secondary of the team is the real Achilles heel. Clearly last years unit benefited from a pass rush and the presence of CB Dunta Robinson, as the 2010 version just looks lost. Things have gotten so bad that CB Jason Allen, cut from the Miami Dolphins, will see significant playing time this week. The starting cornerbacks are both young and it shows. Quinn Glover, in his second season, has had a terrible time with veteran support while rookie corner Kareem Jackson has looked awful. Jackson, who was selected before the Jets Kyle Wilson, has the tools to be a player, but is not making any of the mental adjustments necessary to be successful. The Texans are willing to let him learn on the field, but in the process he has cost them football games. Neither safety is very good. S Bernard Pollard gives up a large number of receptions and is not very helpful in coverage. He has been credited with allowing 8 touchdowns on the season. Pollard will have gaudy tackle totals by seasons end because so many pass plays are given up in the secondary and he is also responsible for runners who make it through the first line of defense. S Eugene Wilson seems to have been around forever and is an average player that does not really stand out in any phase of the game.
The Jets are going to be coming off their best offensive effort in some time with a well balanced attack against the Browns that saw the Jets hold the ball for almost the entire game. QB Mark Sanchez had another late game rally and was superb in avoiding pressure and finding his receivers. This was the first game of the year where Sanchez really seemed to spread the ball around and make the most efficient use of all the players in the passing game. WR Santonio Holmes is quickly emerging as the most dangerous player in the offense. Two weeks in a row he has made the big catch at the end of the game and he is putting up huge numbers for the team. Holmes has made this a unit of 3 big play guys with WR Braylon Edwards and TE Dustin Keller as the other two targets and as long as the Jets get 2 of the 3 to fire in a given week the offense should be very productive. WR Jerricho Cotchery had his best game of the season last week, but will be limited due to a groin injury. With another game set for Thursday it might make the most sense for Cotchery to sit this game out. The running game has been relatively ineffective these last few weeks and the Jets will need to determine if there is any way they can fix it. The offensive line is not opening holes the way they did last season and the right side of the line has not been dominant this season. RB LaDainian Tomlinson also looks slower on his cuts than he did early in the season while RB Shonn Greene is still looking for that second gear. The Jets want to run the football but at under 4 yards a clip they wont be able to use the run play so often. All of the runners were involved with the passing game last week and its possible they could start to use dump offs to act as run plays. The team will look for a bounce back effort from the offensive line in pass protection. They had been stellar for a few weeks and saw a drop in play last week. LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson gave up a few pressures, his first below average game in probably 6 or 7 weeks while injured LG Matt Slauson had a nightmare game before being pulled in favor of Robert Turner. Another game like last week will be unacceptable.
This is a big challenge game for the Jets offense because they are matching up against a terrible defense and are looking to improve their play at home. It has been feast or famine for this offense at home and that dates back to last season where they were held 17 or below four times and under 10 once while only being held two times on the road below 17. They have already been held under 10 points twice at home this year and are far more efficient away from home. It is a trend the Jets have to stop if they want home field to mean anything if they win the division. This game has to be a coming out party for the offense and this week it needs to begin by throwing the football rather than running it. The Jets have three big play weapons and have to use every one of them early to demoralize the Texans. Houston has given up a ridiculous 11 plays of 40 or more yards through the air in just 9 games this year. Holmes and Edwards in particular are two of the best big play receivers in the NFL. The Jets have to take their chances this week early in the game. With the Texans secondary being so bad it's a relatively low risk situation since they rarely turn the ball over. Making those big plays for scores is going to have the players on the Texans put their hands on their hips and shake their heads in disbelief. While the Texans are not a good run defense, the linebacker play is solid enough to where they are not going to allow momentum changing plays to happen when running the football. They are a team that is easier to run on once they fall behind and they start to take themselves out of the game mentally. Tomlinson and Greene can seal the deal once the Jets jump in front, but Sanchez and his trio of big play guys have to come up big and they have to come up big in the 1st quarter, not wait until the fourth quarter to pull out some magic tricks for a chance to win. The Jets ran a lot of the Tigercat last week and against an undisciplined defensive team it might work again. The Texans are soft in the middle and tend to overplay the lanes on the outside which could give WR Brad Smith the opening he needs for it to work. Ferguson will have the key matchup with Williams and if he holds Williams in check, Sanchez should go untouched most of the day. If the Jets interior line can get a strong push in the middle it should open up those draws that have not been very successful this season.
Houston does not bring much in the way of special teams into the game. K Neil Rackers is a solid player with a good leg on kickoffs. He is a very accurate field goal kicker, but the knock on him has always been that he is a far better warm weather/indoor kicker than outdoor player. Most of his misses have all come on the road. Veteran Punter Matt Turk does not have much of a leg, but is one of those few players left in the NFL that do well with directional kicks and getting good hang time on his punts to minimize the return. The team does not do much in the way of returns. WR Jacoby Jones usually handles the return duties, though sometimes RB Steve Slaton will get some kicks that go his way. Slaton has had problems holding onto the football in the past.
Clearly all eyes are on Nick Folk after his disastrous performance last Sunday. Things like that happen, but Folk has been very inconsistent with great games followed up by poor ones. What teams want in a kicker is consistency and he is not there. Another major slip up and he may be looking for a new job. P Steve Weatherford almost had the weekend off last week and will certainly have a good chance to do the same this week if the offense continues to play well against another poor defense. Expect the Jets to also be looking long and hard at their long snapper, who did not do well last week either. It is doubtful that the Jets return team and coverage teams will have much of an impact, either positive or negative this week, unless they can pop the ball loose from Slaton.
This is do or die time for head coach Gary Kubiak, whose team is in danger of falling out of the playoff race before it even gets started yet again. Kubiak has been responsible for changing the losing culture of the Texans franchise, but he has done a terrible job of fielding a competent defense and his offense is not as good as was advertised. Houston has been a trendy playoff choice for two years running and ownership will not stand for another 8-8 or 9-7 type season. With 5 losses already under Kubiak's belt one more would effectively end his head coaching career with Houston. Kubiak is only 13-23 in his career on the road and only posted a winning road record once in his career. Houston is 2-2 on the road this season.
Another one of those strange weeks surrounding coach Rex Ryan who seems to somewhat be undercutting his offense by challenging them to play well this week in front of the home crowd while at the same time challenging the crowd to do a better job. It is understandable why Ryan is doing it--- both the offense and crowd were pathetic in the last home game---but its hard to fault a crowd when your team scores 0 and also kind of disrespectful to the offense when they have carried the defense for most of the year, including the last two games. Ryan has to find a way to get his team prepared for a fast start as they can not handle another close overtime contest, especially with another game right around the corner in just 4 days
This is an interesting game for the Jets. You have a Texans team that really is in a must win situation and has to be playing at a level of desperation most teams do not have after just 9 games. Can the Jets, who rarely seem to play with any sense of urgency, match that early intensity? The Jets are trying to prove that they can be a good home team, a problem that has finally been caught on by the staff and the media. Do they respond to the challenge of playing well in front of their home crowd or not? Can the Jets come out like the coach wants and put a dagger in the heart of the Texans and come away with an easy victory?
This game is going to come down to how the squads play early in the game. If the Jets dominate on the two main sides of the ball the game is over. If the Texans take an early lead or even if they just play even it is going to be hard on the Jets. There are a lot of intangibles that work against the Jets this week. Coming off back to back road games that went into overtime is going to have the team tired. Winning both games probably gives the team less of a sense of urgency this week and also keeps the idea in their head that they can just rally by turning it on late in a game. They know they have the Bengals on national TV in just 4 days and it is easy to overlook a team that you always seem to beat that is losing almost every week, and look ahead to the bigger game.
This game is all about proving that Jets have matured and are ready to take that next step. The Jets need to begin to show some type of mental toughness coming into this game. The season is more than halfway complete and it is time for the team to not just talk about being the best team in the NFL; it is time for the Jets to begin to act like it for 60 minutes on their own field. Everyone knows that the Houston Texans are a soft football team. They do not deal well with adversity or physical play. The best teams in the NFL see a team like this come into their stadium and they take a hammer to them and pound them right out of the game.
The Jets can not afford to keep playing these 4th quarter comeback games. Eventually it catches up with you and once it goes bad it can spiral out of control. With the quick turnaround to next weeks game its imperative that the Jets get their starters some rest in the fourth quarter by having this game firmly in control late in the contest. That will put them in a great position to be fresh for Thursdays game and have their best chance to be 9-2 as they head into the crucial showdown against New England. Lets see if the Jets can take care of business this weekend and make that 9-2 record a reality.
Jets 31 Texans 17