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The Jets won't make the Playoffs

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Rex Ryan may be the king of the F-bombs, but he better use as many as he can during the regular season. The Jets won’t be making the playoffs.

The Jets used up all their luck last year. There are no playoff-bound cakewalk games at the end of this season’s schedule. Opposing kickers are all out jinxed out. Oh yeah, and Mark Sanchez still sucks as an NFL quarterback. His upside is "Jake Plummer" not Broadway Joe. Let’s ditch the Sanchize label right now.

Look, I’m not saying the Jets will be a bad team, but they are in a division with two legitimately tough opponents and in a conference with other good wildcard candidates. They also got a lot of breaks last year and just don’t seem likely to repeat.

To begin with, let’s relive how the Jets got into the playoffs last year. At 7-7, they caught a break by drawing the Colts and Bengals at the end of the season, with both teams already in the playoffs. They finished 9-7 and advanced as a wildcard team due to a tiebreaker.

The Jets have built their team identity around superior defense and a pounding running game. They’re hoping to ride that same formula with an slightly improved passing game all the way to the Superbowl this year. I’m not saying it’s a bad formula, but it’s not going to work.

The Defense

In the NFL, dominant offenses tend to dominate for many years. Dominant defenses may still be good the following year, but rarely dominate for long stretches. The Jets were absolutely dominant last year (Defensive DVOA of -23.4%) but will find it much harder to repeat one of the best defensive seasons of the last decade. Even a top 5 defense is a slip from last year.

If the Jets defense peaked last year, it was because their defensive star, Darrelle Revis, had quite possibly the best year by a cornerback since Deion Sanders was in his heyday. I wrote about Revis’ great season and contract situation a few weeks ago. The Jets should be extremely happy that they’ve got him back on the team for ~$8M per year for the next 4 years. That said, there’s no way Revis matches last year’s performance.

Darrelle has missed all of training camp and has only 1 week to prep for the Jets opener. He was superhuman last season but he’ll need more than super powers to get in game shape and be at his peak in a week. Every year we see players that miss camp show rust for the first 3-4 weeks, or worse, get injured. Revis will still be one of the best corners in the league this year, but the rust he shows in the first few weeks could make a big difference to the Jets chances of victory against Baltimore and New England.

Calvin Pace led the Jets last year with 8 sacks and 16 quarterback hurries in only 12 games. Unfortunately, the Jets will be without his services for another 2-4 games this year due to a foot injury. If the injury lingers, they’ll be forced to have 36-year-old Jason Taylor as the starter at outside linebacker. Taylor is a better DE than a LB and I just don’t see him holding up in Pace’s place.

While the Jets will still be good on defense and likely top 5 in the league, there are enough signs that point to them slipping a bit, but any slide backwards will need to be made up by the offense, and that’s where the problem is with this team.

The Offense

The Jets built their offense around good O-line play and a solid running game last season. Many fans think the Jets had a dominant running game. That may have been true in the playoffs, but not in the regular season. The Jets had a negative rushing DVOA in 5 of their 14 competitive regular season games. Their rushing DVOA was 11th best in the NFL, but I actually believe they’ll get worse in 2010.

According to the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010, the Jets O-line starters didn’t miss a single game in 2009, and they’ve done it for 3 straight years! I just don’t see that continuing.

The health of the offensive line aside, the biggest hit to the Jets running game is a change in personnel. Last year the Jets rushing attack was lead by the plodding, yet extremely reliable Thomas Jones. Despite all the talk about Jones not being explosive, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry, even when opposing teams knew the Jets would be running a lot. While Shonn Greene looked absolutely electric over the final portion of the season and the playoffs, he was the third string RB for most of the season behind Jones and Leon Washington. Greene could have a phenomenal year, and I think he will, but the depth behind him is terrible compared to last year. LaDainian Tomlinson may be one of the best running backs of all time, but he only gained 3.3 yards per carry last year in a San Diego offense that dominated through the air. With defenses focused on stopping the pass, he still couldn’t find running room. If Greene gets injured, the Jets offense will grind to a halt.

More than anything, the Jets will lose games because they don’t pass the ball well. And as you can see from this article on Advanced NFL Stats, Passing = Winning.

Hidden in the Jets success last year, was how bad Mark Sanchez really was. The Jets won despite Sanchez, not because of him. Let me put it this way, in FOA2010, Sanchez’ 2009 season could be realistically compared to JaMarcus Russell’s first season as a starter (2008), and frankly Russell’s TD-to-INT was miles better than Sanchez. That said, it could also be compared to Matt Leinart’s 2006 season, Troy Aikman’s 1990 season, Trent Dilfer’s 1995 season or John Elway’s 1984 season. That’s quite the range of comparisons. The comparison I like the most, and mentioned in the intro, is to Jake Plummer. Plummer was a quarterback that played hard, had great confidence as a young player, was best with play action and deep throws and had a penchant for a few bad interceptions. That’s what I see when I watch Sanchez. Plummer also had great support from his teammates, and so does Sanchez. That said, most Jets fans are expecting The Sanchize to be better than Plummer.

Many people will argue that Sanchez has better receivers this year with Braylon Edwards from the beginning and Santonio Holmes in a few weeks. Receivers are great, but the QB still has to do his job, just ask Matt Leinart.

The Schedule

Once again, I will use a telling stat from the FOA2010 (just buy it, it’s fanatastic and no, I don’t get paid if you do – right here). The Jets have the 6th toughest projected schedule in the league. In 2009, it was the 25th toughest.

The Bills may be an easy 2 wins in the division, but two games each against the Pats and the Dolphins, who are MUCH better, will easily result in 2 losses. Examining the Jets’ schedule, I could see them at 3-3 when they reach their bye week and 9-7 by the end of the year. 9-7 isn’t a bad record, but they have to compete with Cincinatti, Pittsburgh, Houston and others for a wildcard spot if they don’t take the division crown from the Pats, which they won’t.

Final thoughts

The Jets are good, but not good enough. They should take a step forward in the passing game, but they finished last year as the 28th best passing attack in the NFL. Their defense will likely slip a little and so will their running game. All of this added together means they’ll likely finish similar to their record of last year, but without the extreme luck they enjoyed.

Sorry Sexy Rexy, but you’ll like be getting a Goddam Snack sooner than you thought this year.

All the statistics in the article are from the public and premium sections of FootballOutsiders.com and NFL.com as well as the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010.