Oct 20, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) celebrates a touchdown against the New England Patriots during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won the game 30-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets: Are They Legit Playoff Contenders?

After last year, it appeared the New York Jets were a team that was doomed to be one of the worst franchises in the league.  For years, the New York Giants have stolen the spotlight from a Jets franchise that hasn’t won a Super Bowl for over four decades.  Although the Jets can’t necessarily be considered playoff contenders just yet, they have valiantly proven that they have a legit defense that is supremely clutch along with a solid running game that allows rookie quarterback Geno Smith to make the right plays at the right time.

While the Jets four well-earned victories have been won by a touchdown or less, it is a testament to their resiliency and cleverly crafted schemes.  Although the Jets head coach Rex Ryan isn’t known for his offensive intuitiveness, his defensive philosophies and instincts are simply one of a kind.  Ever since Sanchez’s fall from grace, the Jets organization has been recognized for a stellar defense and a finicky offense that is incapable of doing enough to win.  Now, the scales have balanced thanks to a smash mouth rushing attack and a young quarterback who can do just enough at critical moments to give their offense a chance.

With that being said, Smith still struggles with inconsistencies from game to game a la Tony Romo of yesteryear.  While Geno’s accuracy ranges from mediocre to average (he has completed 58.3% of his passes this season), his ability to get the ball down the field and his new found poise in the pocket is an encouraging sign for a passer who is still learning the ins and out of the NFL.  Thus far, Smith has thrown for over 1,700 yards and his average yardage per completion hovers just below eight yards per pass.  What this means is that Smith is maturing not just as a leader, but he is also building up his confidence to point where he can throw passes to allow receivers to break away from defenders and not the other way around. While Smith still needs to work on preventing careless turnovers (has thrown 11 INT’s this season), he is undoubtedly worthy of being the Jets starting quarterback.

Even with the Jets vast improvements on the offensive side of the ball, it is their oppressive defense that continues to steal the show game in and game out.  Not only is this Jets defense formidable against the run (2nd in the NFL at stopping the rush), their young and dynamic secondary is what makes this well rounded defense even more intimidating.  Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is already having a solid season statistically with 18 tackles and one forced fumble.  Along with their strong cornerbacks corps, the Jets also have a superb squad of reliable safeties who all have either forced a fumble or have made at least one interception.  This type of defensive tenacity is what makes the Jets such a hassle to deal with as the game proceeds to its conclusion.  As opposing offenses become more desperate and physically exhausted, the Jets defense is always there to take advantage of underthrown balls and can read a receivers route properly to pick off an incoming ball on the fly.

While the Jets have unquestionably been a surprise success story this year, they still have a ways to go before they can be considered legitimate post-season contenders.  In the next two weeks, the Jets will have to face two highly competitive division leaders in the New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals.  Although this will be a test for the New York Jets defense in terms of consistently stopping the pass, it will be an even more intimidating trial for Geno Smith.  The Saints and the Bengals both have secondary’s that are ranked in the top 15 (they are 9th and 13th at stopping the pass respectively) along with having two proficient passers who can make monumental plays at a moments notice.

While the Jets road to the post season won’t be easy, if they than take down the two juggernauts that stand before them, the odds of this intriguing franchise making the playoffs will be raised significantly.  Despite Smith’s inexperience as a professional quarterback, the Jets may have just enough to sneak into the playoffs while making believers out critics and sports fanatics alike. 

Tags: New York Jets NFL

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