New York Jets: Three-point stance

Three-point stance: Tennessee Titans

December, 13, 2012
The Jets continue their steady climb in the AFC and find themselves within one game of the final playoff spot heading into Monday Night Football in Tennessee.

Gang Green has won back-to-back games for the first time this season and will take on the Titans who have given up the second-most points in the NFL.

While Mark Sanchez started the year with accuracy issues, in the last four games he has the second-best completion percentage among AFC starters.

He will face a defense that has allowed a completion rate of 67.8 percent to opponents which ranks last in the NFL.

The Jets will welcome back Braylon Edwards who has been the best deep threat receiver Sanchez has had with an average target depth of 15.5 yards downfield. The 10 touchdowns between them is more than Sanchez has with all active Jets receivers combined.

Here are three matchups to watch in Week 15:

1. Running back Chris Johnson has rushed for 1,000 yards for the fifth straight season to begin his career and leads the Titans who rank second in the AFC with 4.7 yards per rush.

The ground attack can be stopped when you consider the Titans rank last in the NFL in yards gained after contact per rush. It will be up to the Jets to contain, swarm and finish tackles.

As easy as that sounds, it can be difficult against the elusive Johnson who leads the AFC in rushing yards gained on plays when he is not contacted by a defender, including all four of his touchdowns.

2. The Jets have returned to the Rex Ryan roots of ground and pound with the most rushing attempts in the NFL in winning three of their last four games.

Gang Green has scored all five of their rushing touchdowns over that stretch by running up the middle between center Nick Mangold and either guard. That leads the NFL along with the most rushing yards and yards after contact in that direction since Week 11.

The Titans will need to plug the middle, disrupt the backfield and add to their AFC-leading 52 tackles for loss to have success against the Jets.
3. With previous experience as a baseball prospect, Jake Locker has a very strong arm and leads qualified NFL passers in completion percentage on throws that traveled more than 20 yards in the air.

Locker has thrown a touchdown every 7.3 pass attempts on the deep ball, which leads the AFC, and the Titans are the only AFC team without a dropped pass on a 20+ yard throw this year.

The Jets meanwhile have been tested on the deep ball more often than any other team in the NFL.

Fortunately, their strength is a passing defense that ranks second in the AFC in both total passing yards allowed per game and Total QBR allowed on attempts of more than 20 yards.

Three-point stance: Jets at Jaguars

December, 6, 2012
The Jets travel to Jacksonville for the first of three road games in the final four weeks of the regular season.

Despite playing the toughest schedule in the NFL to this point, the Jets (5-7) are still in the playoff mix with the easiest remaining schedule.

Head coach Rex Ryan will start Mark Sanchez against the Jaguars, just one week after he was benched against the Arizona Cardinals.

Since the beginning of last season, the Jets are 10-1 when they rush 30 times a game. The ground attack could ease the pressure on Sanchez against a Jaguars defense that ranks 31st against the run. The Jets should also have the advantage on defense against a team that desperately misses Maurice Jones-Drew and ranks 32nd in rush yards per game.

Here are three keys to Sunday's matchup in Jacksonville:

1. In order to help a struggling quarterback, Ryan needs to restore the ground-and-pound attack. The Jets lead the AFC with seven rushing touchdowns between the center and either guard.

No team in the NFL has more rush attempts up the middle when using a second skill player in the backfield as a lead blocker. The Jets have used such a play on 29.8 percent of all rushes this season, the highest mark in the AFC.

Jacksonville meanwhile, has conceded 12 rushing touchdowns between the center and either guard, the most in the NFL.

2. Without injured quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars have called on veteran Chad Henne. He has stretched the field with an average pass length of 9.3 yards, which ranks fifth among NFL passers with 100 attempts.

Since Henne took over Week 11, rookie wideout Justin Blackmon has benefited with the second-most targets in the AFC on throws that traveled 11 air yards or more. Blackmon leads the NFL in yards after contact and yards after the catch on throws that distance over that span.

The Jets are set up well to defend against the deep ball as they rank third in the NFL in lowest completion percentage allowed on such throws.

3. Ryan should get an opportunity to dial up aggressive pass pressure against the Jags, who rank last in the AFC in fewest dropbacks per sack (12.7 dropbacks/sack) allowed.

When the Jets send five or more pass rushers at the quarterback, opponents have managed an average Total QBR of 22.8, which ranks Gang Green fourth among NFL defenses and second-best in the AFC.

Last week against Ryan Lindley and the Cardinals, the Jets blitzed with added pressure on 48.5 percent of dropbacks which was the most of any AFC defense.

Three-point stance: Arizona Cardinals

November, 29, 2012
Despite a disappointing season to this point, the Jets begin the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. The Jets will not play a team that currently has a record of .500 or better and their opponents are a combined 17-33 beginning with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals have started three different quarterbacks this year including rookie Ryan Lindley who threw four interceptions last week. Lindley has a Total QBR of 10.4 in two games, the worst rating of any player with at least 25 snaps at quarterback.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has not been able to produce as a result because he has been under or overthrown on the highest percentage of targets among qualified NFL players.

Arizona enters this game in a tailspin, losing their last seven games after beginning the season a perfect 4-0.

Let’s analyze three keys to this Sunday matchup in New York:

1. Ryan Lindley has gotten in trouble by forcing throws downfield with an average pass length of 9.5 yards. Among quarterbacks with at least 50 total attempts, that is the second longest average in the NFC.

On throws that traveled 10 yards or fewer in the air, Lindley has a completion percentage of 68.8 percent, which is better than the NFL average. However, on throws that travel 11 yards or more, Lindley has completed 29.2 percent which is the worst rate of any player with as many attempts.

While it may sound surprising, since losing Darrelle Revis the Jets rank fifth among NFL defenses in lowest completion percentage and Total QBR allowed on passes thrown 11 yards or more.

2. Despite a struggling offense, the bread and butter for the Cardinals has been their defense which ranks second in lowest Total QBR allowed among NFC teams. The Birds have been disruptive near the line of scrimmage with the most interceptions and the lowest completion percentage allowed of any NFC defense on throws that traveled 14 air yards or less.

As a result, if Mark Sanchez needs time to let deep receivers get open, the big men up front will be a problem where the Cardinals lead the conference in fewest opponent dropbacks between sacks.

3. The Cardinals are particularly effective with their aggressive pass rush which uses five or more defenders on 39.7 percent of dropbacks, the second-highest rate among NFC defenses, and if there's any player in the NFL prone to added pressure, it's Mark Sanchez who has faced it on 38.2 percent of dropbacks, the highest rate in the NFL.

The Arizona secondary has helped the front seven create pressure by clamping down with the third-most defended passes in the league on such plays. That's compared to 32nd in defended passes when sending four defenders or fewer.

The Jets may need to keep an extra blocker in the backfield to protect Sanchez against the inevitable blitz since he ranks 31st out of 34 qualified passers in Total QBR against it.

Three-point stance: St. Louis Rams

November, 15, 2012
The Jets play on the road in the NFC West for the second straight week as they travel to St. Louis. With the Rams hosting at the dome, it will be the first indoor game the Jets have played in their past 34 regular-season games.

The Rams enter Week 11 coming off the first tie game in the NFL since 2008. Against the 49ers, Sam Bradford posted his highest Total QBR of the season (82.0) against the NFL’s top scoring defense.

This will be the first career game for either quarterback against the opposing defense. The Rams are one of three NFL teams (minus the Jets) Mark Sanchez has never faced.

Here are three statistical areas to focus on Sunday:

1. Sanchez has faced an aggressive pass rush of five or more defenders on 39.2 percent of his dropbacks, more often than any quarterback in the NFL. The Rams should look to exploit that as they have sent added pass pressure on 65.7 percent of opponent dropbacks, third most in the NFC. The Rams also mix it up and have used a defensive back to blitz the quarterback at the sixth-highest rate across the NFL. Front-seven players at defensive line and linebacker have benefited on such plays and lead the NFC with five sacks when a member of the secondary helped disrupt blocking schemes. While the Rams are strong up front with added pressure, Sanchez should note they are vulnerable downfield as one of five teams without an interception when they have sent five or more pass-rushers.

2. You might remember these teams swapped offensive linemen in August with Jason Smith joining the Jets and Wayne Hunter going to St. Louis. The Rams are beatable up front, where they have allowed a sack every 12.9 dropbacks, which ranks fourth worst in the NFL. Sam Bradford has been under duress, sacked or hit while throwing on 24.3 percent of dropbacks, which is the eighth most among 33 qualified passers. The woes on the offensive line have also hurt an otherwise powerful running game as the Rams are the worst NFC team in yards per rush when contact is allowed behind the line of scrimmage.

3. Bradford has added the deep ball to his arsenal and has already set a career high in completions on throws that travel more than 20 yards in the air. Half of his 10 touchdowns have come on pass attempts that deep, tied for third most in the NFL. Last week the Jets faced the NFL leader in that category and were hurt badly on the deep ball when they allowed all three completions to finish with a touchdown. While the Jets have allowed only nine big pass plays of 30 yards or more this season, eight of those (88.9 percent) have been on throws that traveled more than 20 yards, which is the second-worst percentage in the NFL.

Three-point stance: San Francisco 49ers

September, 27, 2012
The New York Jets enter Week 4 as the only team in the NFL with two divisional wins as they gear up to host the San Francisco 49ers. With CB Darrelle Revis injured for the remainder of the season, Gang Green will have to improvise on defense to replace the NFL leader in passes defended since 2007.

The 49ers suffered a surprising defeat in Minnesota last week. On defense, San Francisco allowed a Total QBR of 89.9 to Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, their second-worst performance in the Total QBR era since 2007.

Of the 15 games scheduled in the NFL, this will be one of the two (Cowboys/Bears, MNF, ESPN) featuring opponents with winning records. Let's break down three statistical keys for this marquee matchup:

1. The Jets will have to defend a dynamic pass catcher in Vernon Davis, who is tied with Heath Miller for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions (four). Despite his position, Davis presents a deep threat as he leads qualified tight ends with an average target depth of 11.4 yards downfield. Meanwhile, the Jets have been physical with tight ends, holding them to 2.1 yards after catch, best among NFL defenses in 2012.

2. The 49ers have used a standard four-man pass rush on 79.7 percent of defensive plays since the start of last season, second in the NFL behind only the Eagles. Maximizing pressure with minimal personnel has allowed San Francisco to drop seven in coverage and disrupt passing lanes. From the start of 2011, the 49ers rank third in passes defended and lead the NFL with 21 interceptions when using four pass rushers or fewer.

Mark Sanchez could test that secondary. He leads the NFL with an average throw distance of 11.3 yards downfield against four or fewer pass rushers.

3. Alex Smith will face an aggressive Jets defense that ranks second in the NFL with added pressure on 42.4 percent of opponent dropbacks. Smith has been tops in the league against added pass pressure and trails only Robert Griffin III in Total QBR against five or more pass rushers. The Jets might need to change the game plan against Smith, especially without Revis to clamp down in the secondary.

Three-point stance: Miami Dolphins

September, 20, 2012
After two weeks and a big surprise in New England on Sunday, the AFC East is up for grabs as the Jets fly to Miami for another division game in Week 3.

The story for the Dolphins this season has been Reggie Bush, who trails only Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller for the NFL lead in yards from scrimmage. Expect Miami to command the run game on both offense and defense against the Jets in this matchup. The offense ranks third in the NFL with an average of 5.5 yards per rush while the Dolphins' defense ranks No. 1 in the league, allowing just 2.2 yards per rush through two games.

The Jets meanwhile hope to see the return of Darrelle Revis on defense. Let’s take a look at three statistical keys to this game and start with the impact of missing Revis against the Steelers:

1. After Week 1, the Jets ranked as the third-best defense in the NFL in Total QBR allowed on passes thrown outside the painted field numbers. The team led the NFL with three interceptions on those attempts, including one returned for a touchdown. Without Revis in Week 2, the Jets ranked as the third-worst NFL defense in Total QBR allowed on sideline passes. If the star cornerback returns, the Dolphins are in trouble not only on sideline passes but between the field numbers, where Ryan Tannehill ranks 32nd of 33 qualified quarterbacks in Total QBR.

2. The Jets have dialed up aggressive pressure on defense this year and rank second in the NFL by sending five or more pass rushers on 47.6 percent of opponent dropbacks. For the Dolphins, Tannehill has thrown two interceptions against added pressure and trails only Jay Cutler (3) in the NFL this season. The rookie has also thrown nine pass attempts under duress or hit while throwing against five or more pass rushers, tied with Michael Vick for the most in the league.

3. With a rookie at quarterback against a solid pass defense, the Dolphins could rely heavily on the run with Bush, who has at least 100 yards in five of his last six games. This season Bush leads the league in rush yards (104) and touchdowns (2, tied with Frank Gore) on attempts outside the tackles. Gang Green matches up well as the third-ranked defense allowing just 2.4 yards per rush on outside runs. If there is an opportunity for the Dolphins, however, it will be from poor tackling. The Jets have allowed the most yards after contact in the NFL this year.

Three-point stance: Pittsburgh Steelers

September, 13, 2012
The Jets quickly erased any preseason concerns and set a franchise record for points scored in a season opener against the Bills on Sunday. Mark Sanchez posted a Total QBR of 97.1, a career-best for one game, and Gang Green improved to 6-0 all-time when he passes for at least three touchdowns.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have looked rusty against Peyton Manning and the Broncos (94.4 Total QBR-allowed, 30th in Week 1), the return of Ryan Clark and possibly James Harrison could create a tougher test for the Jets. Pittsburgh should look a lot more like the defense that allowed a 35.1 Total QBR last season, tops in the NFL.

In a rematch of the 2010 AFC Championship Game, Rex Ryan and the Jets will be looking for a different outcome while the Steelers try to avoid their first 0-2 start in 10 years. Let's break down three areas to watch during this week's game:

1. It was a tale of two offensive lines in Week 1. The Steelers were one of seven teams to use at least three offensive line combinations, while the Jets used the same five-man unit on all 63 plays. As a result, Sanchez was one of two passers with 15 dropbacks who did not take a sack. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a league-high five times. Sanchez was forced to throw under duress or hit while throwing only twice; Roethlisberger was forced to do so 10 times. Pittsburgh has a shot at redemption against one of the two defenses without a sack in the opener.

2. Keep an eye on air space near the sidelines. On pass attempts thrown outside the painted field numbers, the Steelers allowed two touchdowns and a nearly perfect 99.3 Total QBR against the Broncos. Sanchez opened the season with a career-high three touchdown passes toward the sideline, including both scores for Stephen Hill. On defense, the Jets' cornerbacks were at it again as all three interceptions came on sideline passes, one each for Kyle Wilson, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who returned his for six.

3. Both teams rushed the passer aggressively without success. The Steelers used five or more pass rushers 44.4 percent of the time in Week 1, ranking fifth in the NFL, but allowed an AFC-worst 13.8 yards per attempt and two touchdowns. The Jets sent added pressure 43.8 percent of the time to rank sixth, but recorded all three interceptions when they dropped seven in coverage. Based on Week 1 quarterbacking, Gang Green is in a better position to try the blitz again this week.

Three-point stance: Buffalo Bills

September, 7, 2012
The Jets have a bookend schedule for the first time since 2008 as they will open and close the regular season in divisional matchups with the Buffalo Bills. While the Jets won both meetings last season, the Bills' defense should provide a tougher task this year with key additions in free agency as well as the draft.

BillsJetsThe good news for Jets fans is that the Bills allowed 5.9 yards per play and finished 28th among NFL defenses in 2011. The bad news is that Gang Green averaged 4.8 yards per play on offense and also finished 28th in the league.

While the Jets' well-rounded defense should once again answer the call -- they finished top 10 in both Total QBR and yards per rush allowed last year -- the offense will try to erase a preseason in which the team managed one touchdown in four games.

Let's take a look at three areas to focus on during Sunday's home opener:

1. In 2011, the Bills finished 27th in the NFL in sacks: They averaged one sack for every 19 opponent dropbacks. That number was even worse in the two matchups against the Jets, as the defense managed only one sack in 65 dropbacks, all taken by Mark Sanchez. Expect a tougher task in the opener as the Bills roll out new signings Mark Anderson and Mario Williams as defensive ends. Anderson recorded 2.5 of his 10 sacks for the Patriots against New York and the Jets allowed 21.5 sacks from defensive ends last season, fourth-worst in the NFL.

2. The Jets need to return their focus to the run game this year, especially against the Bills. The team fell to 30th in the NFL last season averaging 3.8 yards per rush after leading the league in rushing yards in 2009. That season Shonn Greene led qualified players with 2.6 yards after contact per rush, but last year averaged 1.9 yards to finish 31st in that same category. The run will also set up play-action, a favorite of Sanchez and glaring weakness for the Bills' defense. Sanchez finished fourth among all passers behind only Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in play-action pass attempts last season. Meanwhile, the Bills allowed a Total QBR of 80.8 when opponents used play-action and finished 31st among NFL defenses.

3. The Jets' defense will face Ryan Fitzpatrick, who averaged just 7.5 air yards per attempt to finish 32nd among 34 qualified quarterbacks. (Tim Tebow's pass attempts traveled an average of 12.3 yards in the air to lead the NFL last year). Watch for the underneath routes: The Harvard grad attempted the fourth-most passes that traveled 10 yards or fewer in the NFL and had his best success against the Jets with shorter passes in 2011.