It is only Week 4, but this Sunday’s home game against the 49ers could be a statement for this team.
Sure, the Jets are 2-1, but who have they beaten? The Bills and Dolphins didn’t make the playoffs last year and have been wildly inconsistent this season. San Francisco was one game away from the Super Bowl and, coming off an embarrassing loss last week, will surely be amped up for this game.
Three things to watch for ...
1. The offense must step up
In his past two games, quarterback Mark Sanchez has completed less than 50 percent of his passes That kind of performance won’t work against the 49ers. The San Francisco defense is among the best in the league at creating pressure and forcing turnovers. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said there are seven players on the 49ers defense who could make the Pro Bowl this season.
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“These guys are greedy man. They led the league last year in turnovers,” wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. “I don’t know how many turnovers they have this year so far, but based on what they did last year, we know that this is a takeaway team.”
That could be problematic for the Jets as Sanchez threw two interceptions in last Sunday’s win at Miami, neither of which were smart throws.
2. Force Smith into errors
Last week was the first time San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith threw an interception in over 250 passes, an outstanding milestone. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising then that Ryan mistook Smith for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at an offseason event. Smith isn’t a gunslinger like Rodgers but he makes smart choices and waits patiently for an open receiver down the field.
“They throw the ball down the field. Most people call it conservative, but for them it’s really not conservative,” cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. “They stay safe with the football.”
With Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis out for the season with an ACL tear, the Jets will need to force Smith into bad decisions with a good pass rush.
3. Coming back
Last season, losing wasn’t exactly a way of life for the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh. In his first year as a head coach in the NFL, Harbaugh turned the down-trodden team into a 13-3 team. After each of their three regular-season losses in 2011, the team bounced back with a win. Harbaugh has his team focused after the humiliation of losing at Minnesota last week.
“It’s our belief that you’re getting better or getting worse; you’re never staying the same. That’s a constant thing for us, is to be better today than we were yesterday, to be better tomorrow than we were today,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a core belief of ours and we really associate that with everything that we do.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.