Jets-Titans Monday Night Preview

NY JETS ON THE PRECIPICE...OF 2012 THRILLS OR THE END OF THE RYAN ERA

The New York Jets head into Monday Night's meeting with the Tennessee Titans on the edge of something dramatic, or something traumatic. Sports bettors could well be seeing the end of the Rex Ryan era with the Jets because the team has been trending in the wrong direction for a couple of seasons. Yet, a sweep of their last three games against a relatively easy schedule could actually put the Jets in the playoffs!

Current Record: 6-7
Best Case Scenario: 9-7
Worst Case Scenario: 6-10

It used to be that 10-6 was the threshold for playing in the postseason. But, the way 2012 is playing out, 9-7 might be enough to take the sixth and final spot. That depends on what happens with Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati...the three teams fighting with the Jet for the two Wildcards. The Jets themselves have made the playoffs before at 9-7...and they would go on to play in the AFC Championship game that season.

THE RYAN ERA
2009: 9-7 (qualified for the playoffs and lost in the AFC Championship game)
2010: 11-5 (qualified for the playoffs and lost in the AFC Championship game)
2011: 8-8 (didn't make the playoffs)
2012: 6-7

You can see what we mean about trending in the wrong direction the past two seasons. From a peak of 11-5 and a return engagement for the AFC title, the Jets have dipped to 14-15 for a head coach who promises greatness every year. A 6-10 finish, or even a 7-9 finish would probably see the end of the Ryan era because few in New York are still drinking the kool-aid. He doesn't know how to coach an offense, or find men who do. He doesn't know how to recognize when his starting quarterback is killing his team. And, his credibility is SHOT because you can't keep promising things you don't deliver and expect to get away with it.

Yet...winning out and reaching the playoffs probably saves his job. How can you get rid of an NFL head coach who reached the playoffs in four of the last five seasons? And, with one of the top defenses amongst the AFC contenders...it's possible that the Jets could shock opponents again with another deep run if they're able to qualify. They should have beaten New England in Foxboro earlier this season. That right there tells you anything can happen.

Even though Tennessee is 4-9 heading into the weekend, the Titans are actually a small favorite over the Jets in the ESPN game Monday Night. Let's see what our indicator stats have to say about tonight's possibilities and a potential playoff run for New York.

NY JETS at TENNESSEE TITANS (8:35 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Tennessee by 1.5, total of 42

The market is saying that the Jets are the slightly better team. Home field advantage is worth three points. Tennessee is laying less than three. Obviously you can be better than Tennessee and still not be playoff caliber. In fact, playoff caliber teams would obviously be favored in Tennessee right now...so the market is telling you it DOESN'T believe the Jets are worthy of January football at the moment.

WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)
NY Jets: 6-7 (5th ranked schedule)
Tennessee: 4-9 (12th ranked schedule)

Should the Jets be getting more respect? They have played the fifth toughest schedule in the NFL this season....which means they'd probably be 7-6 or 8-5 vs. a league average schedule. And, THAT puts them more realistically on the threshold of playoff contention. Tennessee has played a schedule that's slightly better than average. You can probably only bump them up to 5-8 though vs. a typical schedule. This particular data hunk suggests the Jets might deserve more respect than they're getting from the market and from pundits. Yes, Mark Sanchez is having a dismal year. He has faced a tough schedule.

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
NY Jets: -6
Tennessee: -10

Both teams have had troubles in this area. And, even if you account for strength of schedule, it's still a strike against Sanchez that he's grading out so badly this season. The Jets have a good defense! That means they should be winning turnover differential even against a challenging slate. Tennessee's Jake Locker is still learning the ropes, and may not be destined for a successful career in this league. A lot of youngsters are getting shots lately...not all will be able to hold onto their positions. Most important for handicapping Monday Night's game...a stat category that's usually a negative for the Jets actually becomes a positive against the Titans.

OFFENSIVE STATS
NY Jets: 305.9 yards-per-game on 4.7 yards-per-play
Tennessee: 331.9 yards-per-game on 5.5 yards-per-play

The numbers squeeze together when you adjust for strength of schedule...though the final results aren't a compliment to either side. Disappointing seasons for both. Tennessee's 5.5 yards-per-play number is successful, but they're obviously not turning that into anything meaningful on the scoreboard.

DEFENSIVE STATS
NY Jets: 332.5 yards-per-game on 5.1 yards-per-play
Tennessee: 377.8 yards-per-game on 5.6 yards-per-play

Big edge here to the Jets, who are 45 yards better per game and half a yard better per play while facing the tougher schedule. This is the tie-breaker that makes the Jets the better team. Both offenses are poor. The Jets defense trumps the Titans defense by a meaningful degree. Handicappers and sports bettors must determine if the market has properly captured that advantage.

LAST WEEK'S BOXES

NY JETS 17, JACKSONVILLE 10
Total Yardage: NY Jets 270, Jacksonville 291
Rushing Yards: NY Jets 166, Jacksonville 123
Passing Stats: NY Jets 12-19-0-104, Jacksonville 21-43-2-168
Turnovers: NY Jets 2, Jacksonville 2
Third Downs: NY Jets 31%, Jacksonville 13%
Vegas Line: NY Jets by 3, total of 39

Good result for the Jets, whose defense ruled the day here by forcing 22 incomplete passes and allowing just 13% on third down conversions. Obviously the offense didn't sparkle. But, rushing for more than 150 yards on the road will help make up for other woes. This is how you "manage" victories with questionable quarterbacking. And, this is how the Jets snuck into two conference championships when Sanchez was even younger and more green.

INDIANAPOLIS 27, TENNESSEE 23
Total Yardage: Tennessee 356, Indianapolis 269
Rushing Yards: Tennessee 97, Indianapolis 98
Passing Stats: Tennessee 22-35-2-259, Indianapolis 16-34-2-171
Turnovers: Tennessee 2, Indianapolis 2
Third Downs: Tennessee 36%, Indianapolis 35%
Vegas Line: Indianapolis by 5, total of 46

Tennessee was arguably the better side given those numbers and the fact that this was a road game. Locker still doesn't know how to maximize his production on the scoreboard...while Andrew Luck is so smart already that he knows how to find the end zone when needed. If you just look at the numbers, then liking Tennessee vs. the Jets becomes fairly easy. If you consider the letdown possibilities off a blown divisional game, and the fact that Locker will have to deal with the strong Jets defense this week...then it's tougher to back the hosts.

BEST EXPECTATION
Sanchez is so inconsistent and erratic, that there's never really a "best" expectation when the Jets play. If he can avoid turnovers...then the best expectation is a replay of what the Jets did on the road vs. St. Louis and Jacksonville...smash mouth victories vs. non-playoff teams. If Sanchez can't play a clean game...well, you've all seen multiple examples of what happens in that case.

JIM HURLEY has been studying this game all weekend, with a particular eye on how the AFC Wildcard picture was playing out. He's been in close contact with his New York sources. He's studied the output from the simulation software. And, he's ready to get his clients another big, juicy winner!

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21
Nov

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