After a 3-1 start to their the season the Jets hope to continue their winning ways on Sunday. Can they improve to 4-1 before traveling to Foxboro to take on the Patriots or will they falter against an NFC East opponent for the second time this year?
The Jets defense has been simply outstanding this year and it's only poised to get better with the return of Sheldon Richardson. Richardson's return means the Jets defense will now have eight, yes eight, first-round draft picks playing for them this week. Richardson, Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Calvin Pryor (Dee Milliner will make nine when he returns) were all selected in the first-round.
And if that didn't present enough of a problem for Washington's young, inconsistent, turnover-prone quarterback, Kirk Cousins, the team will also be missing their starting center Kory Lichtensteiger and left tackle Trent Williams due to injury.
Wasington's defense has be solid this season and will certainly present a challenge for the Jets offense, all week long the players and the coaching staff stressed that this Washington front could be as good as they'll face all season, but they will also be missing two key starters in the outside corner combination of DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver.
This is a great matchup for the Jets and a matchup they should be able to win. If the Jets are going to make the playoffs this year games like this are must win games.
WHEN: Sunday Oct. 18, 1 pm EST
WHERE: MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, NJ
Probabable - S Dion Bailey (elbow), LB Quinton Coples (elbow), CB Antonio Cromartie (groin, not injury related), TE Jeff Cumberland (concussion), WR Eric Decker (knee), RB Chris Ivory (quadricep), LB Jamari Lattimore (concussion), S Calvin Pryor (knee), CB Darrin Walls (hamstring), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ribs), DE Leonard Williams (ankle)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Win the ground game - The one game this season the Jets struggled to run the ball was against the Eagles, the one blemish on the Jets record. They struggled to run the ball early against the Colts, which prevented them from running away with the game early, but were able to find success late. If the Jets can't run the ball it becomes very hard for Ryan Fitzpatrick to find success through the air. Washington has allowed the 12th fewest yards per game on the ground (97.6) but opponents have run for 4.4 yards per carry (22nd in the league). Expect the Jets and their eighth ranked rushing attack (127.3 yards per game) to pound the rock down Washington's throat. Ivory might be on a pitch count of sorts and Powell might not play so we could see a healthy dose of Zac Stacy, but when Ivory is in he's likely to open up the Jets offense and wear down Washington's defense.
Washington's offense is actually very similar to the Jets. They have a strong running game with a limited and turnover-prone quarterback but missing two offensive linemen is going to make it hard for them to match the 121.8 yards per game they gain on the ground, especially considering they're going up against a stout Jets defense that is only allowing 94.8 yards per game on the ground and they get Richardson back.
Turnovers - The running game for both teams will dictate their offense, the better each team runs the more success they'll be able to find in the air. This is, of course, true for all teams but even more so for offense built from the ground game out. If either of these teams struggle on the ground their chances of turning the ball over increase dramatically. Both offenses have turned the ball over at about the same rate, the Jets have a total of seven turnovers (six interceptions and one fumble) and Washington has nine total turnovers (six interceptions and three fumbles), but Washington has played one more game than the Jets.
The big difference between these two teams is the takeaways. Washington has six takeaways on the season (two interceptions and four fumbles) and the Jets have caused 13 (six interception and seven fumbles). It will be up to Fitzpatrick to protect the football and not force any turnovers because with Washington missing two offensive linemen (yes, this is the third time it's being mentioned because it's a pretty big deal and should be a huge advantage for the Jets) the Jets defense should be able to apply enough pressure to force Cousins into a few turnovers.
Leonard Williams vs Brandon Scherff - These two won't face off on every play but Williams could have very well be in Washington but instead they choose to draft Scherff. Scherff went fifth overall in the draft and Williams went sixth and the Jets are ecstatic that Washington let them have Williams. Williams has said he holds no grudge, there will be no 'make them regret not picking him' moments used as motivation but don't be surprised if the Washington front-office leaves this game wondering if they pick the right guy.
PREDICTION: 23-13 Jets
This probably won't be the cake walk many people seem to think it will be. Washington isn't an all-around terrible team but they have too many weaknesses that the Jets can exploit and those weaknesses just happen to matchup perfectly for the Jets. This game could stay close early but eventually the Jets defense will get to Cousins and the turnovers will come and the Jets can head to Foxboro, for a matchup against the Patriots, with a 4-1 record.