After getting off to a 4-1 start to the season the Jets have dropped three of their last four games and are now approaching what is pretty close to a must-win game. Now admittedly the phrase must-win game gets thrown too much and we should all collectively roll our eyes when we hear that phrase thrown around so early in the season, bound to repeated week after week, but this game isn't a must-win game because the math says it's a must win game, it's close to a must-win game because if the Jets can't beat the Texans with T.J. Yates playing quarterback how can we expect them to beat most of the other teams remaining on the schedule?
Yes, the Texans have played better as of late (winning three of their last four), but that better consists of beating the Jaguars, Titans and the Bengals (who gave the game away with an all-around poor performance and numerous drops, and let's face it the Bengals are known to give us a few games like that a year, they just waited longer in the season to give it to us this year) with a 44-26 drubbing from the Dolphins mixed in. And now not only are the Texans without Arian Foster for the season but DeAndre Hopkins hasn't practiced all week (is still expected to play) and Brian Hoyer won't play as he is dealing with memory loss from the concussion he got Monday night.
If this Jets defense can't stop this Texans offense then it would seem virtually impossible that they could find away to sneak into the playoffs, math be damned. Sure the math would say it's still possible but that would just be another instance that proves numbers do in fact lie.
WHEN: Sunday Nov. 22, 2015 1 pm EST
WHERE: NRG Stadium Houston, TX
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Limit J.J. Watt's impact - Notice the very careful wording there, 'limit' J.J. Watt's 'impact.' There is no stopping Watt, no containing Watt, all you can do is figure out small ways to limit his impact. Run plays away from him, running plays, bootlegs to the opposite side of wherever of where he's lined up. Double him, triple him, multiple chip blocks, one after another like you're passing him down an assembly line, but whatever you do don't leave him one-on-one with a shot to annihilate Fitzpatrick.
Chan Gailey will have to get creative scheming up ways to limit Watt's impact but it has to be done. The Texans have some of good defensive players but no one that can completely take over the game like Watt can. All week long the conversation in press conferences and the locker room was about Watt, how do you stop him, what makes him so good, who does he compare too? Breno Giacomini, who will be seeing a lot of Watt on Sunday, had the best answer simply saying, "no one. He's one of a kind." Watt will blow up running plays in the backfield, sack the quarterback or jump up at the line to deflect or intercept passes, in which case he becomes a threat to return it for a touchdown, he can disrupt offenses in a multitude of ways.
You can't completely stop him, you can't even contain him you just have to figure out ways to work away from him and limit his power as much as you can.
Pressure, confuse and frustrate T.J. Yates - The reason why this game has to be considered close to a must-win game for the Jets is because Brian Hoyer, who isn't a good quarterback, is hurt leaving the Texans to rely on Yates to beat this Jets defense. The Jets secondary has given up a lot of yards these past four games but if Yates lights up the secondary fans can officially start to panic. Hopkins is a dynamic, and one of the most underrated, receiver but outside of Hopkins no one else is going to scare you. Nate Washington, Cecil Shorts III and Alfred Blue, at running back, shouldn't scare any defense let alone this defense.
If this defensive line and this secondary can't frustrate and confuse Yates, with Bowles' blitz packages, you might as well kiss the playoffs goodbye because it's hard to envision them rebounding from that.
Get back to running the ball well - The Jets have struggled to run the ball during this losing streak and as we've continually discussed if the Jets struggle to run the ball the Jets struggle to score. Sunday will be no different and the Texans defense ranks 25th against the run, allowing 118 yards per game, the Jets will have to take advantage of this and bump that average up even more in order to win on Sunday. The Texans offense doesn't figure to light up the scoreboard, but the Jets are going to need to get their running game going to insure that Fitzpatrick won't have to win the game through the air while trying to figure out how not to get crushed by Watt.
J.J. Watt vs. the Jets offensive line - We could easily go Darrelle Revis vs. Hopkins here, and that will be yet another great one-on-one matchup for Revis, but every week it's Revis vs. fill in the blank receiver. Make no mistake Revis-Hopkins will be the best, most consistently, one-on-one matchup but Watt is such a rare and unique talent that it doesn't matter that he'll square off with every member of the Jets offensive line and often times with more than one at a time.
Watt will move around all over the line, they will use him in multiple ways and it will take every blocker the Jets throw out there to successfully limit Watt but on any given play it's going to be fun to watch Watt vs. whoever is standing in his way.
PREDICTION: Jets 27-10
As good as Watt is the Texans are going to need a lot more than just Watt to win this game. They have some other good players, but it's hard to see how they have enough for Yates to quarterback them to victory. The Jets have certainly struggled over the past month but after a 10 day layoff and the team as healthy as they've been in awhile, and as healthy as they will be, they should have no trouble getting back on track and winning their sixth game of the season. The offense might take a little while to warm up but expect the defense to hold it down for long enough for the running game to take over as the Jets get a fairly easy road win.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)