In anticipation of the upcoming NFL season, Head & Heart Sports will feature one division each week until the season begins and preview each team’s 2016 outlook. This week we take a look at the AFC East, concluding with the New York Jets today.
Recap of 2015: The New York Jets (or Yets I as like to call them) exceeded all expectations last season. After finishing 4-12 in 2014, the Yets ownership decided it was time to move on from the John Idzik and Rex Ryan and bring in Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles. The Jets also had serious questions at the QB position to answer. The team traded with the Texans for Ryan Fitzpatrick at the beginning of free agency to bring him in to compete for the starting QB position. They also acquired Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall from the Bears to help improve a very weak receiving corp. The team also looked to boost their secondary by bringing back star cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The beginning of training camp seemed looked to get started off on the wrong foot when Geno got punched in the face by teammate IK Enemkpali. Geno owed Enemkpali $600 for a plane ticket and hadn’t paid up. The punch left Smith out 6-10 weeks and cost him the starting job. Ryan Fitzpatrick would step in under center and lead the team to a 4-1 start. You could almost consider the Enemkpali punch a blessing in disguise as it saved Jets fans from the ensuing misery of watching Geno Smith pretend to be an NFL QB. The Jets would then go 1-4 over their next five games. The team would then go on to win its next five games in a row and improve to 10-5. Heading into Week 17 they held the sixth and final playoff spot but needed to beat fellow division rival Buffalo Bills to get in. The Jets would go on to lose to the Bills and just miss out on the playoffs. They finished the season 10-6 and were the only team with a winning record left out of the dance.
Significant Additions: RB Matt Forte, OT Ryan Clady, DT Steve McLendon, RB Khiry Robinson
Significant Subtractions: RB Chris Ivory, LB Calvin Pace, CB Antonio Cromartie, P Ryan Quigley
Potential Impact Rookies: LB Darron Lee, LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Justin Burris, OT Brandon Shell, P Lechlan Edwards
Team Strengths: When Todd Bowles came to New York, he wanted to change the culture of the team defense. In 2014, the team finished 24th in total defense, allowed the 9th most points in the league, and were 27th in DVOA. Bowles brought in Revis, Cromartie, and Buster Skrine to boost the secondary. The front seven was already one of the best in the league and featured guys like Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Calvin Pace. This Jets team finished 4th in total defense, 9th best in points allowed, and 9th in DVOA. This offseason, the Jets have lost Calvin Pace and Antonio Cromartie and will look to rookies Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, and Justin Burris to step up and fill the voids left by these two players. Another strength of the Jets this past season was their wide receiver play. Very quietly, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both exceeded the 1,000 yard mark, averaged 12+ yards per catch, and caught 12+ touchdown passes. They also both finished the season as top-25 WRs and were one of only three teams (DEN, NYJ, JAX) to have two receivers in the top 25. Luckily for these two, the Jets front office ended their holdout with Ryan Fitzpatrick and brought him back this season. Both Marshall and Decker exhaled a sigh of relief after hearing the news of Fitzpatrick’s signing and coming to the realization that they weren’t going to have to attempt to try and catch passes from Geno Smith or rookie Christian Hackenberg this season.
Team Weaknesses: The most important position on the field, quarterback. Sure the Jets brought back Ryan Fitzpatrick for another season after he proved he is a worthy mid-level QB in this league. His stats from last year fall rather short of impressive however. He managed just a 59.6 completion percentage which was only good enough for 29th out of the 34 qualifying QBs. His QB rating was also only a mere 88.0 which was 24th best out of the 34 qualifying QBs. Fitzpatrick also turned the ball over 17 times (15 INTs, 2 FL). If the Jets want to get back into the postseason, they will need better play from their QB position. I do have to say though that having Fitzpatrick is leaps and bounds better than having Geno Smith or Christian Hackenberg under center. Another area this team has struggled is in at the tight end position. Last season, Jets TEs managed only EIGHT catches the entire season. Yes, that is correct. 8 catches in a 16 game season. And that total was a combined for two players (Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Davis). The Jets did not make any splashes in free agency to help this position out. They lost Cumberland to the Chargers, re-signed Davis, and re-signed Zach Sudfeld. Some people here at H&H might tell you Sudfeld is a worthy NFL TE, but he is nothing worth paying for as he has a total of 10 catches in his NFL career. (Note: In our inaugural Fantasy Football League, Sudfeld went for $12 despite being projected as being bought for less than $1)
Fantasy Players to Watch: Two guys that should be on your roster are the Jets standout Wide Receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Both players eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark and caught 12+ touchdowns. I can’t be sure that these two would put up the same kind of touchdown numbers as last year, but I can assure you that these two will both be over the 1,000 yard mark again especially now that Fitzpatrick is under center again. Not to mention, having a guy like Brandon Marshall on your squad will give you one of the better fantasy football team names out there with “Forgetting Brandon Marshall”. Another player to keep a close eye on is Matt Forte. The 30 year old has joined the Jets this season after spending his previous eight with the Chicago Bears. Forte missed seven games last season with a knee injury and back problems. Despite injury concerns, Forte should still be considered a borderline RB1. This is his backfield and if he can stay healthy, he will eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and come close to 500 receiving yards. He is an especially valuable player in PPR leagues with his pass catching abilities. If you also find yourself in the need of a defense, I would make sure to keep a close eye on the Jets D/ST. The Jets D/ST scored in the top 10 of defenses last year in ESPNs standard scoring system. They are always a threat for turnovers with Revis Island in their secondary and with guys like Wilkerson and Richardson leading their front seven. If you find yourself in a deep, deep hole at QB, Fitzpatrick is worth taking a shot on. He finished with the 12th most fantasy points for a quarterback last season. Fitzpatrick may also be a usable bye-week option depending on his matchups that week. Whatever you do with your draft this year, make sure you stay away from whichever TE they decide to trot out there in Week 1. Remember, Jets TEs had a whopping total of 8 catches last year for a total of 12 points.
2016 Outlook: The Jets will have a much tougher road this year after having one of the easiest schedules in the league last season. They match up with the NFC West this season and have tilts against the Steelers and Chiefs on the road. They also weren’t fortunate to catch the Patriots with Garappolo and will face Tom Brady in both of their matchups this season. Todd Bowles will look to continue his aggressive defensive mindset that he brought with him last year and keep his defense in the top 5. Fitzpatrick will look to continue the success of last season with Marshall and Decker and finally get this team back into the playoffs after a five year drought. The Jets rookies Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins will look to come into this season and make an immediate impact in the pass rush. If the defense can continue to keep consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and continue to take the ball away from opposing offenses, then this Jets team will be in the hunt again for a playoff spot.
Record Prediction: In the Jets first six games of the season, they will face five playoff teams from last year. Their only opponent in this stretch that wasn’t a playoff team last year is division rival, Buffalo, and that game is on the road. Unless this team continues to exceed expectations and completely shock me, I think they will find themselves in a 1-5 hole to start the season. The schedule does improve slightly for them as their next four games are against the Ravens, Browns, Dolphins, and Rams. All four of these teams finished below .500 last season. After the bye-week, they will finish up the season facing AFC East opponents in four out of six games. I do think the Jets will make things interesting with an easier back-end of the schedule, but I ultimately think a 1-5 start will doom their season. Look for the Jets to finish this season 7-9 and once again be on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
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