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How NY Jets can flip their fortunes vs. AFC East opponents

Sauce Gardner, NY Jets, Dolphins, Jalen Ramsey
Sauce Gardner, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets have consistently failed in the AFC East

The last time the New York Jets broke even in their division record was 2015. The last time they had a winning record in the AFC East was 2010 — not surprisingly, also the last time they made the playoffs.

Despite beating the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 of the 2023 season, the Jets finished 2-4 in the division. Three of their losses came by a combined 77 points (32-6 to Buffalo, 34-13 and 30-0 to Miami). To reverse their fortunes as a whole in 2024, the Jets will need to figure out their divisional opponents.

On the surface, this task may seem easier in 2024 than it has in decades. Tom Brady passed the baton to Josh Allen as the dominant quarterback in the division, but after losing Stefon Diggs, the Bills’ offense looks vulnerable. The Dolphins struggle to beat good teams and have more holes on their offensive line, interior defensive line, and defensive coaching. The Patriots are in full rebuild mode.

To win the division in 2024, the Jets must find a way to go at least 4-2 against their division. Here’s what they need to do against each team to make that happen.

Dominate the Patriots

The Jets’ loss against New England in 2023 was soul-crushing. The Patriots were well on their way to being bottom-dwellers in the AFC, as their final 4-13 record showcased. A disastrous game from Zach Wilson and the Jets’ offensive line promoted a 15-10 defeat.

If the Jets want to win the division, they must win both games against New England. While the final score doesn’t make a difference in record, for morale’s sake, they need to crush the Patriots. Ideally, if Drake Maye is the starter in the Jets’ home opener, they can make him look as bad as Bill Belichick made Zach Wilson look in his second career game when he tossed four interceptions.

Still, the Jets must beware. Jacoby Brissett has come within a hairsbreadth of beating them in back-to-back seasons with lackluster surrounding talent. If he is New England’s starting quarterback, they can’t let him and Rhamondre Stevenson take over.

On the offensive side of the ball, they can’t play games. They’ve scored a combined 66 points in their last six games against New England. That trend can’t continue.

Keep it close with Buffalo

The Jets need to split with the Bills at minimum in 2024, but they have a chance of sweeping. They’ve split over each of the last two seasons, and three of the four games were very close — with Zach Wilson and a battered Mike White at quarterback. Buffalo’s offense should be a lot easier to handle in 2024 without Stefon Diggs, who had 10 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown against the Jets in Week 1 last season.

Still, Josh Allen showed in the Week 11 matchup how he can win by spreading the ball around. Other than an 81-yard pass to Khalil Shakir, no one had more than 47 receiving yards — and that was running back Ty Johnson. Shakir, Dalton Kincaid, and James Cook — three players currently on the team — combined for 208 receiving yards. The Jets can’t underestimate Allen’s capabilities.

The Jets need to get consistent pressure on Allen without blitzing him. In Week 1, they harassed him on 42% of his dropbacks; in Week 11, that was down to 34.3%. In those two games, he went a combined 12-for-14 for 130 yards and a touchdown when blitzed.

Offensively, it won’t be the cakewalk that some Jets fans imagine. The Bills had one of the best cornerback trios in the NFL in 2023. Garrett Wilson caught just 2 of 8 targets for 9 yards in the Week 11 matchup. They’ll need to find ways to be successful with their other players, including Breece Hall out of the backfield (5 of 6 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown in Week 11).

Aaron Rodgers played okay against Buffalo in 2022, going 19-for-30 for 203 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 (fluky) interception in a 27-17 defeat that was not as close as the score would indicate. The Jets will need more from Rodgers to beat Buffalo.

Still, in these games, it will start with the defense against Josh Allen. If they can flummox him the way they have for most of the past two seasons, the games will be within reach for Rodgers.

Contain Miami’s receivers

Miami blew the Jets out twice in 2023 — and Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle feasted. The pair combined for 25 catches on 29 targets (86.2%) for 358 yards and two touchdowns in three combined games (Hill missed the second game), including three 100-yard performances.

The strength of the Jets’ defense is supposed to be their cornerback room. D.J. Reed struggled mightily against Miami, allowing 11 receptions on 13 targets (84.6%) for 189 yards and a touchdown. Much of the rest of the production was Mike McDaniel manipulating the Jets’ defense as he does so well. The Jets must find a way to counterpunch.

Offensively, the Jets should target linebacker David Long and slot corner Kader Kohou. Long allowed 38 of 49 receptions for 439 yards and a touchdown into his coverage. The Jets targeted him 11 times in the two matchups, completing 9 passes for 68 yards. They should try to isolate Breece Hall on him as much as possible.

Kohou had a good rookie year in the slot, but in 2023, he allowed 44 of 49 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdowns in slot coverage. The Jets should play Garrett Wilson in the slot a lot against Miami and target him heavily.

New York should also have an easier time running the football against Miami. Between a rebuilt offensive line and Miami’s loss of Christian Wilkins, there should be more space at the first level. Hall managed only 13 rushes for 37 yards in the two matchups, but that should be a priority for the Jets. In the first matchup of 2022 when Alijah Vera-Tucker was still healthy, Hall had 18 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown against Miami. Long is an excellent run defender, as is Zach Sieler, but the Jets should be able to get something going on the ground.

Like against Buffalo, the Jets’ goal is to split with Miami at a minimum. Still, the Dolphins showed their warts against good teams in 2023, going 1-5 against playoff teams in the regular season with a point differential of -91. The Jets must prove they’re one of those teams.

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