After a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, the Denver Broncos will look to rebound on the road this Sunday when they face off against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Though it’s only the fifth game of the year — it’s a must win for the Broncos. It sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. The franchise has a tough schedule ahead of the, especially when you consider upcoming games against the Los Angeles Rams and the aforementioned Chiefs, who are undoubtedly the cream of the crop in the National Football League. A win on the road against the Jets keeps their playoff hopes alive, but a loss on the road dropping them to 2-3 in a competitive AFC would be catastrophic to those aspirations.
The Broncos lead the all-time series against the Jets 20-15-1 and have been victorious in four of the last five games dating back to 2008. The Jets began their season with a decisive 48-17 victory against the Detroit Lions in the first week of the season, but have since dropped three games in a row and are eager to get things moving in a positive direction at home hosting the Broncos. Let’s take a deeper look at the Jets, as well as a few keys to the game and my final prediction.
A comprehensive look at the Jets’ defense
Most certainly, the strength of the Jets’ team this season has been their defense. Opposing quarterbacks are being held to a meager 79.7 QB rating gong up against them, a number good enough for sixth-best in the league. Their secondary and linebackers have shown a penchant for creating turnovers and have six interceptions to date, which is top-five among all defenses. On average, their secondary has allowed 247 yards passing per game which ranks thirteenth league-wide. However, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, a key member of their secondary, has officially been ruled out for Sunday’s contest. That should allow the Broncos to have a bit more success through the air than average against their defense.
With Johnson out, primary corner duties will go to veterans Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine who have had above-average campaigns for the Jets this season. Though the gem of the Jets’ defense is second-year safety Jamal Adams, who has produced in a big way to date with 31 tackles, 1 sack, 3 passes defended, 1 interception and a forced fumble. Without question, he is the big-time player in their secondary you will definitely want to keep an eye out for on Sunday.
Anchoring down their defensive line is fourth-year veteran and former Pro-Bowler Leonard Williams, who is looking to rebound this year after a 2017 campaign which was lackluster compared to years past. That being said, his teammates in the trenches have done a phenomenal job opening things up for their inside linebackers. Avery Williamson and Darron Lee who have been notable playmakers for their defense and arguably two of the best defenders on the team.
The Jets’ rushing defense is only allowing a meager 3.8 yards per carry which is seventh best in the league. However, teams are still attempting to establish the running game against them, as they are allowing roughly 108 yards per game and have given up 4 rushing touchdowns, which rank in the middle of the pack in comparison to other teams. Overall, the Jets’ defense is ranked thirteenth in points allowed and twelfth in yards allowed, but have also forced six fumbles, third best in the NFL. Those rankings aren’t too shabby considering their defense lacks a premier edge rusher.
Jets’ Head Coach Todd Bowles is known for his aggressive defenses that have a penchant for blitzing and disguising their coverage schemes, which makes it no surprise they have racked up ten sacks and forced a lot of turnovers early on this year. Primarily a 3-4 defense that runs a lot of zone coverage, Bowles hasn’t shied away from being flexible and changing up his formations due to the strengths of their opponents. They are a disciplined unit committing the third-least penalties in the league and for the most part have had great success stopping their opponents (especially on third down), outside of their game last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars where they surrendered over 500 yards of total offense.
A comprehensive look at the Jets’ offense
Since the days of Ken O’Brien, the Jets have been in an endless search spanning nearly three decades to find a franchise quarterback. But the Jets aren’t alone in that respect, as that has seemingly been the case for every team outside New England in the AFC East since Tom Brady came along. After years of draft busts and journeymen players calling the shots under center, the Jets made a bold move to trading high up in the draft to select former University of Southern California signal caller Sam Darnold in this past draft to be their future for years to come.
Like all rookie quarterbacks, ups and downs are going to happen and that has certainly been the case with Darnold. He has struggled in the past two games, especially in respect to his with his accuracy and has failed to reach the 200-yard mark in those contests. On the season he has 868 yards passing, but has completed a meager 57.5 percent of his attempts. He also has more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four). Not only that, his offensive line has had some issues in pass protection, and he has been sacked ten times thus far.
In order to help out their young gunslinger, the Jets have used a healthy dose of running back duo of Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell who are the focal point of the Jets’ offense attack. The two have combined for 81 rushes, 336 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground, with Powell also proving to be a threat out of the backfield as a receiver with 10 receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa has proven to be Darnold’s favorite target to date. He has been targeted 37 times, but has only caught 21 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown. The team’s second leading receiver is Terrell Pryor, who has been a vertical thread averaging nearly 20 yards per catch this season. Robby Anderson and Jermain Kearse are the Jets’ other two top receiving options, but have only combined for 14 catches, 165 yards and a touchdown.
Offensively, the Jets are ranked twenty-first in points scored and twenty-ninth in yards. If the Broncos’ defense can shut down their rushing duo, that will force Darnold to make some serious plays to try and win the game — something he hasn’t been capable of doing to date. On the bright side, outside of the fourth quarter against the Chiefs the Broncos’ defense was playing great. I have a feeling they want shot at redemption this week against the Jets and will look to make the most going up against a struggling Darnold.
Two Big Keys to the Game
Winning the turnover battle
In four games this year, the Jets have turned the ball over eight times. Yet their defense has had a knack for big-plays and have forced ten turnovers. Unfortunately for Jets fans, being positive in the turnover battle hasn’t translated to wins. On the other hand, the Broncos have turned the ball over at least once in every game and six times on the year, but have only amassed three turnovers. All of which came in the first week against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Broncos’ defense has a prime opportunity to take advantage of a rookie quarterback who is struggling. However, the Jets’ defense has same chance given Case Keenum’s enormous issues to date. If Denver wants to win on Sunday, they need to force a few turnovers and dial up subsequent scoring drives to capitalize off them. Most importantly, they can’t continue to shoot themselves in the foot by turning the ball over on offense.
The Broncos can’t abandon the running game
The Broncos underutilized their rushing attack against the Chiefs, which was a huge mistake and one of the primary reasons they lost on Monday Night Football. Although the Jets’ defense is much better at defending the run, that is certainly no reason for Denver to ignore what has been their greatest strength on offense this season. A healthy dose of Royce Freeman, who deserves more opportunities, as well as Phillip Lindsay will be crucial in establishing an effective offense to win on the road.
Sunday’s early afternoon affair will be a good test to see what type of team the Broncos will be this year. Will they rise to the occasion and get back in the win column after their Mile High Meltdown on Monday Night Football or will they continue to struggle on the east coast and drop to 2-3? A win would prove to be a significant boost to their momentum and their chances at making the playoffs this year, but a loss would be catastrophic toward those aspirations. With the pressure on them to perform, I believe the Broncos will make a statement on the road against the Jets and dial up the pressure on Sam Darnold and cause a few big turnovers that will be the deciding factor in the game.
Broncos 30, Jets 17.