News’ five keys to the Jets making a postseason run

By on November 10, 2013
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 27: Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets looks to throw a pass during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 27, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Geno Smith needs more help from his receiving corps if the NY Jets want to make the playoffs.

More than halfway through the season, Gang Green finds itself in a position few thought the Jets would be: fighting for a playoff spot. Considering the Jets’ -62 point differential, it’s easy to see that a lot has gone their way in the first half of the season. But at the same time, their five wins can’t be taken away from them, and as a result, the Jets would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Realistically, the Jets need to go at least 4-3 in their final seven games to have a shot at the playoffs. Here are the keys to the Jets playing in January:

1. Steady improvement by Geno Smith

It doesn’t need to be anything Earth-shattering, either. Last week’s win over the Saints was significant because it was the first time the Jets won while Smith actually played poorly. That’s a good sign, but by and large this team will rise and fall with its rookie quarterback. Letting him throw downfield to Stephen Hill or Santonio Holmes (when he returns) would be a good step. Having him reduce his turnovers would be another. It looks like he’s already showing improvement in the latter category, as he has thrown five interceptions in his last five games compared to eight in his first four.

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Smith’s life will be made easier if his receivers, whose play has been lackluster so far this season, can step it up after the bye. Hill in particular needs to kick it into gear.

Chris Ivory's ability to earn the tough yards is key to keeping the pressure of a rookie QB.

Robert Sabo/New York Daily News

Chris Ivory’s ability to earn the tough yards is key to keeping the pressure of a rookie QB.

2. Palatable production from the secondary

No one has to be Darrelle Revis. And the Jets don’t need the second coming of Ed Reed. But what they do need are cornerbacks who can be relied upon to for solid play, just enough to give the defensive line time to disrupt the passer. Average play on the back end makes this defense elite. The win against the Saints showed just how good Rex Ryan’s defense can be. On the other hand, when the secondary is bad, like it was in Cincinnati, it brings down the whole defense and quite possibly the team.

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3. An aggressive mentality

It doesn’t have to be in every game, but against the Ravens, Dolphins and Panthers, the Jets ought to go in looking to capitalize on every opportunity. That means going for it on fourth-and-short or throwing in a surprise onside kick. This isn’t really in Ryan’s makeup: he tends to pack it in and “take the points,” a phrase that ignores the possibility of gaining a few more by scoring a touchdown. He’ll shift the odds in his favor if he believes in his offense’s ability to convert on fourth down and stops throwing the challenge flag in un-winnable situations. Allowing Josh Cribbs to throw is another wrinkle we’ve already seen the Jets use with success once.

Rex Ryan needs to be more aggressive down the stretch to get his team into the playoffs.

Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News

Rex Ryan needs to be more aggressive down the stretch to get his team into the playoffs.

On non-fourth down play calls, this probably isn’t going to be an issue. Marty Mornhinweg generally likes to take his shots, and Ryan himself will never shy away from a big blitz in a huge moment.

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4. Keep the pressure off Smith with the running game

The Jets have run well in each of their last two victories. It’s often easy to look back at wins and spot a strong running game, because after all, teams run when they are ahead. But in these cases, it has kept the defense from sitting back and baiting Smith into making mistakes that kill the Jets. Chris Ivory is tied for 14th in the league in yards after contact, according to ProFootballFocus, making him a valuable weapon. The Jets will need Bilal Powell, too, to get back in his early season form to keep the offense humming.

5. A little bit of luck

After barely scraping out a 5-4 record through the first nine games, it’s hard (but not impossible) to imagine this team reaching 10 wins. So, if the Jets are going to make the playoffs with nine victories, they’ll need some key losses from the Titans and avoid getting swept by the Dolphins. Staying healthy would help, too.
A quick peek at their schedule shows that the hard part of the Jets’ slate is already over. At the moment, the Panthers are the only above .500 team left on the docket. That ought to be comforting to a fan base that has yet to see it’s team win two in a row this season.

@SethWalderNYDN

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