The Jets have won three straight games and are looking to turn that streak into a six game inning streak to close out the season and grab a Wildcard spot, but before they can get to their fifth and sixth straight wins they have to take care of business in Dallas and beat the Cowboys to make it four straight.
The Jets catch a bit of a break in the schedule as the 4-9 Cowboys are only 4-9 because they don't have their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, and have turned to Matt Cassel after Brandon Weeden already failed for them. The Cowboys are a team littered with talent but without Romo that talent just can't get on track. This is the easiest opponent left of the Jets schedule but they can't overlook the Cowboys because they really can't afford to lose another game and expect to make the playoffs. The Jets know this and have been treating every week as a one-game playoff to get them into the playoffs and the fact that is a prime time game on Saturday should only help the Jets stay focused.
WHEN: December 19, 2015 8:25 pm EST
WHERE: AT&T Stadium Arlington, TX
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Win the battle on the ground - No Romo mean the Jets don't have to fear the Cowboys passing attack. Sure, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are still there but Cassel has proven that he simply isn't capable of taking advantage of their talent. Where the Cowboys can still be effective is on the ground. Despite opposing defenses stacking the box against them, because why wouldn't you when they only average 207.5 passing yards a game, the offensive line is so big and so good they are still able to rush for 118.2 yards per game, the 11th best rushing offense in the league. Darren McFadden has taken over as the lead back and has really come on strong as of late but the problem for the Cowboys is the Jets have the best run defense in the NFL, only allowing 78.9 yards per game. The Jets defense simply has to stay disciplined and stick to their assignments to stop the running game from beating them. The only way the Cowboys offense can be effective is on the ground and the only way the Jets struggle to defend the run is if they get out of their lanes and get lazy/sloppy.
On the other side of the ball the Cowboys defense has been really good all year, especially considering how bad their offense has been, but it has slipped as of late. The Cowboys are great against the pass, they have the fourth ranked defense in passing yards per game (221.1), but allow 113.8 rushing yards per game. With the way Ryan Fitzpatrick has been throwing the ball there's no reason to think they will shy away from throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker but they will certainly look to establish the running game with a combination of Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley.
Will the Jets be able to find their early season form with the rushing attack? Let's just say your probably going to want to start Ivory if you have him for your fantasy football playoffs.
Turnovers - Of course turnovers are the key to every game but the Cowboys have the worst turnover differential in the NFL. They have only forced eight turnovers (six interceptions and two fumbles) and have turned the ball over themselves a total of 23 times (15 interceptions and eight fumbles). The Jets don't necessarily need to force a lot of turnovers to ensure victory on Saturday night, although that would certainly help, but they can not turn the ball over themselves. Well they probably could get away with one or two but they don't want to risk that. If the Jets were to somehow lose this game it would likely be because of too many turnovers, turning the ball over against this Cowboys team is like giving the Cowboys extra lives. Protect the ball and the Cowboys offense will be stuck in neutral.
Focus - The Jets are the better team. They are better at every position excluding the offensive line and tight end but that's simply not enough to transform the Cowboys offense into anything to be feared. The Jets might struggle to get going offensively early on but as the game gets going they shouldn't have any trouble racking up yards and points. All the Jets need to do is play smart, sound football. Stick to the game plan, stay focused and don't make mistakes and they should have no trouble picking up their ninth win of the season.
It's a shame Bryant doesn't have a capable quarterback, so naturally this matchup won't be as fun to watch as we first expected but even if Cassel can't get Bryant the ball it will stick be fun to watch these two battle. Bryant doesn't appear to have fully recovered from his foot injury, so he hasn't looked as explosive as usual, but with the fiery competitive desire these two bring on the field with them each and every week it will be a pleasure to watch these two battle regardless of how many times the ball gets thrown their way.
Prediction: Jets 34-13
The Jets were able to get off to a fast start last week against the Titans and it enabled them to jump out to an early, commanding lead and they never had to look back. Maybe it takes them a little longer to get going on Saturday but the story should play out in a similar fashion. The Cowboys just have no offensive firepower they can expect to beat the Jets and their defense isn't good enough to hold down the Jets offense for an entire game. The blowout might not start from the first drive but by the end of the game the score shouldn't be remotely close and the Jets can turn their attention to beating the Patriots next week.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)