Preview: New York Jets

Steelers fans should be excited. Their team has won three games in a row and heads into their week 10 game against the New York Jets tied for the top of the AFC North. They should feel confident, and proud, behind a record-setting group of games where QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 1,127 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions.

But why are fans leery? It’s because of what they call this Sunday’s match up: a trap game.

It could be a trap, as the Jets have one of the worst records in football, standing at 1-8. It could be a trap, because the Steelers are traveling to “Jet” Life Stadium for this game. It could be a trap, because we’ve seen this team play down to what, on paper, appears as “lesser” opponents.

However, this game should be anything but a trap.

The New York Jets really are that bad. They haven’t won a game since week 1, against the still winless Oakland Raiders. Gang Green sits at the bottom of many statistical categories, including points scored and points allowed.

They are also dead last in passing yards allowed, which is no fluke. Going into the 2014 NFL season, the Jets would arguably face the toughest slate of quarterbacks, almost one after the other. The names read off like a list of the best of the best:

  Cmp Att Yds TD Int
Aaron Rodgers 25 42 346 3 0
Jay Cutler 23 38 225 2 0
Matthew Stafford 24 34 293 2 0
Philip Rivers 20 28 288 3 1
Peyton Manning 22 33 237 3 0
Tom Brady 20 37 261 3 0
Kyle Orton 10 17 238 4 0
Alex Smith 21 31 199 2 0
Total AVG 20.63 32.50 260.88 2.75 0.13

Unfortunately for the Jets, this streak may not end well, as Big Ben is coming off his best games ever, which are also some of the best NFL performances, ever:

Cmp Att Yds TD Int
Texans 23 33 265 2 0
Colts 40 49 522 6 0
Ravens 25 37 340 6 0
AVG 29.33 39.67 375.67 4.67 0

By the law of averages alone, Roethlisberger is putting up better numbers over his last 3 games than all of the previous quarterbacks who have beaten the Jets. Consider, those statistics are skewed by Kyle Orton’s meager 10 completions: but then you realise, 4 of those went for scores!

All kidding aside, the Jets have been torched by the passing game of every team that came before Pittsburgh, and if the trend of both teams continue, it would be no surprise to see Big Ben toss another 4 or 5 TDs this Sunday.

It’s the Jets’ side of the ball that will be interesting, as Michael Vick takes the helm once again at QB, for what is the league’s worst passing offense. Nonetheless, newly acquired WR Percy Harvin made a splash for New York last weekend, catching 11 balls for 129 yards. The Steelers will need to contain Harvin in much the same way they did Steve Smith Sr. last weekend, as Harvin lines up all over the field.

For what the Jets lack in passing, they make up with rushing. Boasting the 3rd best rushing offense in the NFL, New York employs a trio of running backs in their attack. If this sounds familiar it should: the Cleveland Browns also used a three-headed approach in being the last team to beat (more like beat down) the Steelers. Browns QB Brian Hoyer only had to complete 8 passes in that route against the Steelers. It would be no surprise if the Jets would attempt a similar approach of rushing and taking shots downfield with Harvin and Eric Decker.

The Steelers defense will be without SS Troy Polamalu and LB Ryan Shazier as they make this attempt. The Jets have given up 25 sacks this season; the Steelers have had 8 in the last 3 games, lead by James Harrison, who contributed half of those with 4.

Jets QBs have also been picked off 11 times, while their defense has only had 1 interception all season. The lack of creating turnovers has placed the Jets dead last in turnover differential with -15 at a time where Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t thrown an interception in 3 games. Should Pittsburgh continue their standard of excellence on both sides of the ball, it may not matter what game plan the Jets choose.

All signs point to the Steelers walking out of New Jersey with their 4th straight victory. They will need to continue their offensive pace, and limit their mistakes on both sides of the ball, to ensure they do not fall into the “trap” awaiting them. If they emerge victorious, the Steelers will add another AFC conference victory to their resume, and separate themselves from the rest of the playoff pack.

They will also ascend to the top of the AFC North for the first time since 2011.

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