Geno Smith is back at the helm for the Jets (1-5), as they take on the Baltimore Ravens (3-3). And while the season seems to be on the brink of already being over, head coach Todd Bowles is hoping for a spark – anything – to keep hope alive.
The last time Smith faced the Ravens, it was 2013, in Baltimore, and was his 11th start of his rookie campaign. He didn’t fare very well in going 9-of-22 with two interceptions in a 19-3 loss. But this time around, Smith will have some nice weapons at his disposal – at least on paper. The Jets, however, need to translate said talent into actual on-field production, as they enter Sunday’s tilt with the worst point differential in the league (minus-69), and that even includes the winless Cleveland Browns.
Taking a closer look at this unraveling season, it’s not too baffling as to why the Jets have started this poorly. Injuries to key players, blown coverages on the deep ball, inconsistent blocking, a running game that’s gotten worse each week, and poor quarterback play have all led to the team’s demise.
Smith may or may not ignite the Jets, but Bowles had to find out. The coach couldn’t have picked a stauncher test for his once-maligned signal caller, though, as the Ravens boast a solid defense. Baltimore is ranked third in defense, including being No. 1 against the run (69.7 yards allowed per game), which means Jets fans may get to see Smith put the ball in the air often.
That might not be what Jets fans want to hear, but considering how daffy this season has been so far, it would be appropriate if Smith and Co. light it up and finally end their four-game skid.
Metro takes a look at such a probability and other storylines to follow, as Gang Green looks to clip the Ravens.
What to Watch for:
1. Where’s the rush? – Earlier in the season, it appeared that the Jets would invoke the old ground-and-pound philosophy as Matt Forte was a rushing machine (196 yards and three scores) in the first two weeks of the season. But those days appear to be over, as his production – and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s faith in calling runs – has diminished each week. The Jets' running attack ranks 19th in the league (92.5 yards per game), and a big part of that is a lack of running plays called, as Forte and backup Bilal Powell have combined for just 28 carries the past two weeks. The bottom fell out Monday night in Arizona when Forte only tallied 19 rushing yards. His recent four-game slump has only provided 41 rushing yards per game, which means if that trend continues on Sunday, the Jets’ offense will be forced to solely rely on its passing game and be one dimensional.
2. Injuries are the great equalizer – Baltimore is on a strange ride right now, as it has lost three straight after opening the season with three-straight wins. It’s the Ravens' second-straight trip to MetLife Stadium in as many weeks, following Week 5's gut-wrenching defeat to the Giants. A big part of the team’s recent slide is health – something of which the Jets can also relate. Quarterback Joe Flacco (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, while defensive stars like six-time Pro Bowl linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs suffered a torn triceps in the loss to the Giants. Flacco has been listed as questionable all week, but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh noted his quarterback has a “legitimate shot” at playing. Suggs, however, may not suit up, despite his pleas to play through it. He played through a similar injury in 2012, though, and Harbaugh left the door slightly ajar.
“He has a chance to come back soon. How soon remains to be determined,” said Harbaugh. “I think this week would be tough for him, but I don’t put anything out of Terrell Suggs's ability to overcome.”
Losing either Flacco or Suggs – or both – would be a tough break for the Ravens, and a rare piece of good fortune for the Jets.
3. Let my Geno throw – The Ravens’ defense isn’t just decimated in the front seven with Suggs’s ailment, but the secondary has been compromised lately, too. Gang Green may actually be wise to let Smith grip it and rip it, considering how banged up Baltimore’s secondary has been. Smith and Brandon Marshall (27 receptions for 433 yards and two touchdowns) may be able to take advantage of a Ravens’ back-four that may not have top cornerback Jimmy Smith, who sustained a concussion last week against the Giants, or Tavon Young (undisclosed), Jerraud Powers (groin), and Shareece Wright (hamstring). Smith is still in the concussion protocol, while the status of the remaining trio is uncertain. The Giants took full advantage, last week, in scorching the Ravens’ secondary, as Eli Manning passed for 403 yards and three scores and Odell Beckham Jr. registered 222 receiving yards and two touchdowns. It’s very likely the Jets’ offensive brass noticed, and are working on a gameplan to take similar advantage.