This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
Enjoying The Jets
I started a draft of this column talking about the dwindling number of players in our circle of trust, and it was going okay, but I'm scrapping it. It's not that you don't need to be told draft day doesn't resemble midseason – you do, obviously, as you (and I) will forget this next August – but I wasn't feeling it. Maybe later in the year the topic will recur in a way that compels me to write it but probably not.
Instead I want to talk about the Jets. For starters, as a Giants fan, I'm glad they exist. Second, while every year there's a terrible team (last year at this point it was the Dolphins who started out 0-7, traded away their top veterans (Laremy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kenny Stills, Kenyan Drake) and lost their first three games by a combined total of 163-36), the Jets seem uniquely bad, partly on account of institutional memory and partly due to their surprisingly still employed coach Adam Gase.
Gase was Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator in Denver when Manning re-wrote the record book (recall how that season ended, though), and he also took the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016 with a roster that included Ryan Tannehill, Drake, Damien Williams and DeVante Parker, apparent mediocrities until they all played much better for other coaches and teams. He also seemed to have problems with high-profile players like Le'Veon Bell, Parker, Jarvis Landry and recently traded Jamal Adams. And finally there's this, which I respect obviously, but am also at a loss to explain.
But comparing the Jets to last year's Dolphins through six games looks like this:
And that's with the Jets losing their starting QB, their starting RB whom they've since released, most of their starting WR corps and of course Adams, their best defensive player. In short, it's the Dolphins who appear to have been uniquely bad, not the Jets. And yet the Dolphins went 5-4 the rest of the way, knocked the Patriots out of the bye in Week 17 and still were able to get Tua Tagovailoa ("tank for Tua") without intentionally tanking.
That's not to predict a similar turnaround or better things ahead for the Jets. Not only is their institutional history of failure profound, but Gase, unlike 2019 Brian Flores, isn't a rookie coach with a potentially bright future. And while the metrics might not hate the Jets as much as the public does, the team is still 0-6 with virtually no chance to contend and no reason to not to "tank for Trevor," assuming Trevor Lawrence would even play for them, especially if Gase (who has played a large part in getting the least out of Sam Darnold) is miraculously still around. But all is not lost!
As Bob Dylan said, "when you got nothin', you got nothin' to lose," and it's time for the Jets to view themselves in that light. Why punt ever again, unless it's a surprise QB punt on second down, a sideways soccer-style kick aimed at unsuspecting defenders to generate live-ball deflections? Why not be dead set on getting Sam Ficken a 65-yard field goal, breaking Matt Prater's record? Ficken would make at least one in six tries.
Frank Gore needs only 1,129 rushing yards to catch Walter Payton for second place all time. At 3.5 YPC, that's only 323 more carries in the season's final 10 games, not physically impossible, albeit challenging for the 37-year old back. Play 11 DBs, send 10 on a blitz. Drop a defensive tackle into coverage, so N'Keal Harry (in their Pats matchups) can get separation on a play. (Bill Belichick is obviously the GOAT, and drafting is hard, but Harry over A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin and DK Metcalf is looking beyond egregious right now.)
Experiment with novel onside kick techniques, put a kick returner in punt formation, snap it back to him and run an entire series of kick return-like plays from scrimmage. Practice the hook and ladder, the flea flicker, the Philly special not as one-off gadget plays but part of the standard package the way the Rams use Jet sweeps or the Ravens use the read option. Pick a fan at random each week to be added to the roster and get action on special teams (with requisite liability waivers.) Sign Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon. Trade for Jameis Winston. Have Gregg Williams put a bounty on Darnold in practice. I won't sit here all day and give away multi-million-dollar marketing ideas for free, but you get the point.
There's nothing to be gained in trudging through the season, faking professionalism when even the squarest rube sees you for the imposter you so obviously are. Unless you believe putting on the brave face and earnestly trying to turn the season around is really the most absurd stance, the ultimate performance art. Whatever the Jets decide, believe me, as a fan of a divisional contender, I'm here for it.
Week 7 Sporcle Quiz
Special one for the "running backs don't matter" crowd. Apropos of Derrick Henry's 212 rushing and 52 receiving yards in Sunday's overtime win, can you name all the backs who have eclipsed 200 and 50 in a single game?
Guessing The Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Giants at Eagles||4.5||5.5||3.5||1||46||43.5||2.5|
|Steelers at Titans||3||2.5||-2||5||53||52||1|
|Cowboys at Football Team||3||0||-3||6||48||49||-1|
|Bills at Jets||-10.5||-11.5||-12.5||2||44||48||-4|
|Panthers at Saints||9.5||8.5||7.5||2||52||51||1|
|Packers at Texans||-2.5||0||-3.5||1||52||56.5||-4.5|
|Browns at Bengals||-3||-4||-3.5||0.5||48||51||-3|
|Lions at Falcons||2.5||3||3||-0.5||55||56.5||-1.5|
|Seahawks at Cardinals||-2.5||-3.5||-3.5||1||55||55||0|
|Jaguars at Chargers||7.5||7||8.5||-1||49||49.5||-0.5|
|49ers at Patriots||3.5||3||2.5||1||48||45.5||2.5|
|Chiefs at Broncos||-6.5||-7||-9||2.5||52||49.5||2.5|
|Buccaneers at Raiders||0||0||-3||3||46||53.5||-7.5|
|Bears at Rams||6||4.5||5.5||0.5||42||46||-4|
It's annoying because I want to be on the Giants and against the Jets, and I originally (Monday night) set them at 3.5 and 12.5, respectively, which would have given me the choice. But then Tuesday morning, I got more conservative and wound up on the Eagles and Jets. So I might make a rare executive decision and take the teams I originally intended, though if I do that, it's a signal you should probably fade it. In any event, neither of those are remotely my best bets.
I like the Football Team (seems like I'm selling the Cowboys low, but they're still priced as road favorites), the Titans (why isn't this line the standard three?) and the Raiders (the Bucs are a good sell high here.) I was less off on the totals than usual, but the high ones still occasionally surprise (Packers-Texans at 56.5!)
Week 6 Observations
- The 49ers have their offensive skill pieces healthy again, and it seems the hierarchy we expected is in place: George Kittle and Deebo Samuel at the top, with Brandon Aiyuk and Kendrick Bourne contributing occasionally. Raheem Mostert ran hard, but sprained his ankle, so Jerick McKinnon should get another shot. JaMycal Hasty looked more explosive and saw more carries, but McKinnon is probably still the guy while Mostert is out.
- Cam Akers didn't see a single carry, while Darrell Henderson (14-88-0) saw most of the work and had a TD called back. Malcolm Brown must be the better pass protector because he was in on third downs.
- The 49ers secondary looked like the worst in the history of the league last week, but stymied Jared Goff completely, despite no sacks.
- The Jets are off to a tough start, but let's not underestimate Frank Gore's leadership.
- I actually picked up La'Mical Perine in a couple leagues, but not only did Gore get most of the carries, but Ty Johnson looked better than Perine.
- Myles Gaskin (18 carries, four catches) is quietly one of the league's true every-down workhorses.
- Ronald Jones (23-113-2, 2-2-8) is good. He hits the hole quickly, makes sharp cuts and gets yards after contact. He'll never be Alvin Kamara as a receiver, but Jones is not a total zero there, and Tom Brady likes throwing to his backs.
- Rob Gronkowski (8-5-78-1) looked like the guy I drafted in three leagues before dropping him in two of them. With O.J. Howard out for the year, I expect Gronk to stay involved.
- Mike Evans (2-1-10) could be hurt by Gronkowski's red-zone involvement, but Chris Godwin (7-5-48) should get his if he shows he's completely over the hamstring injury. But Brady spreads the ball around more than Jameis Winston did.
- Aaron Rodgers looked like trough Josh Rosen. Not only did Rodgers throw two bad picks – he had only six picks over his last 32 games – but he missed wide open receivers and even took a delay of game penalty. The Bucs are a good defense, but Rodgers played great in New Orleans a few weeks ago, so I have no idea what to make of his collapse. Davante Adams (10-6-61) looked healthy at least.
- The two late game blowouts resulted in a larger dose of Red Zone host Scott Hanson than I could tolerate. Calm down, dude. Not everything merits gushing enthusiasm. It's like my eight-year old daughter had friends over, and we allowed them to have too much sugar. (Incidentally whenever I complain about Hanson, people in my timeline assure me Andrew Siciliano is far worse.)
- D'Andre Swift (14-116-2, 4-3-7) finally had the game for which we had hoped when we drafted him, and fortunately for me, I was desperate enough to use him. I doubt Adrian Peterson is going away, but Kerryon Johnson is.
- The Jaguars upset of the Colts and close loss to the Titans seem like ages ago.
- The Bears defense is good, but good luck wading through their offensive skill players other than Allen Robinson, and even he's getting dragged down. David Montgomery has the curse of worthless volume.
- It was insane the Steelers were only three-point home favorites over the Browns, but then again I thought it was insane the Vikings were only 3.5-point home favorites over the Falcons.
- Chase Claypool getting rushing TDs isn't ideal for James Conner (20-101-1, 1-1-1. ) Juju Smith-Schuster went 4-2-6 without Diontae Johnson active. I realize it was a blowout, but JSS is obviously not a set-it-and-forget-it starter.
- Baker Mayfield is bad, and he's dragging down Odell Beckham. Granted, the Steelers are a tough defense, but as a Beckham investor, I wouldn't mind if the Browns switched to Case Keenum.
- Miles Sanders (9-118-0) hurt his knee and is out at least a week. Zach Ertz (ankle) is out at least three. No one runs through high-profile skill players like the Eagles.
- Carson Wentz (213 pass yards, two pass TDs, 5-49-1 on the ground) hasn't been smooth this year, but he keeps at it. The play call on the would-be-game-tying two-point conversion where Wentz and the back nearly collided before being tackled in the backfield wasn't optimal.
- Travis Fulgham (10-6-75-1) would have had a monster day had he held onto the Hail Mary at the end of the first half. I don't see the decayed remains of DeSean Jackson or Alshon Jeffery sidelining Fulgham any time soon, though Jalen Reagor will eventually be back too.
- Lamar Jackson (9-108-1) had a big day on the ground and did enough (183 yards, one pass TD) through the air. Mark Ingram ankle injury could free up a nice tandem of Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, but Jackson's presence makes it more of a three-way committee nonetheless.
- The Giants won the game, but the chance for the cover was killed when Ron Rivera went for the two-point conversion on the would-be game-tying TD. Rivera also went for it on 4th-and-4 after a running-into-the-kicker penalty late in the first half even though the punter pinned the Giants near their own goal line. It paid off too as the Football Team scored a TD to bring it to 13-10. Say what you want about the guy, but Rivera is no coward, and both football decisions were sound.
- J.D. McKissic (8-41-0, 6-6-43) looked shiftier and tougher to corral than Antonio Gibson (9-30-0, 5-4-25.)
- Daniel Jones ran well (7-for-74), but attempted only 19 passes. The Giants offense is still one of the league's worst – one of their TDs was a fumble return.
- The Giants started third-rounder Matt Peart (26 snaps) at left tackle over fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas (22 snaps). It was hard to tell if it made a difference, but obviously Thomas hasn't been what the team had hoped.
- Devonta Freeman (18-61-0, 35 of 48 snaps) is the only game in town now among the running backs. He still looks spry under the circumstances.
- I made the Patriots my Survivor pick as I knew the Broncos would have a tough time getting into the end zone against that defense.
- Cam Newton salvaged his fantasy day with 76 rushing yards, a rushing TD and a catch for 16 yards. But he didn't look sharp, and eight of his 17 completions were to James White.
- With Courtland Sutton out, Tim Patrick, and not Jerry Jeudy, is the Broncos' No. 1 WR. (Though as @kcpayne26 pointed out in the comments, it might have been due to Stephon Gilmore checking Jeudy.)
- I'm convinced the dead-cat bounce after a coach gets fired is a thing. It even got Julio Jones (10-8-137-2) into the end zone twice.
- Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson had big fantasy days, but it was all compiled in garbage time.
- Whenever a Mike Davis subs in for Christian McCaffrey and does well, the "running backs don't matter" zealots have their Twitter dunk-fest. But in Dalvin Cook's absence Alexander Mattison goes 10-26-0, 2-1-4 against a weak Falcons defense, and crickets.
- A.J. Green (11-8-96) came back from the dead even with Tee Higgins (8-6-125) leading the way.
- I'm not sure how the Bengals let the Philip Rivers-led Colts back from a 24-7 deficit. Rivers had one big play to Marcus Johnson (55 yards), but his next longest was 22 yards, and he was largely throwing to Johnson, Zach Pascal, Trey Burton and Nyheim Hines.
- Jonathan Taylor (12-60-0) didn't see much work on the ground but contributed as a receiver (4-4-55.) The jury's out on whether he's more Adrian Peterson or Leonard Fournette.
- Ryan Tannehill (four TDs, 364 yards) and Derrick Henry (22-212-2, 5-2-52) were monstrous. I avoided Henry this year because I thought he was an injury risk and lacked pass-catching upside, but through six weeks that was obviously a mistake.
- Deshaun Watson's reaction to the overtime coin flip showed he justifiably does not have faith in his defense. Watson himself (335 yards, four TDs, no picks, 26 rushing yards) had a huge game, spreading the ball between Will Fuller (11-5-123-1), Darren Fells (7-6-85-1) and Brandin Cooks (9-9-68-1.)
- David Johnson (19-57-1, 2-1-12) scored but you want a lot more in a game where his team scored 36 points. It's a little David Montgomery-esque.
- Via Titans Reddit (h/t @robpizzola) Mike Vrabel might have done something incredibly smart that ultimately made the difference in the game:
I've talked about this a lot on the SXM show and here, that 2nd-and-1 is much better than 1st-and-10, but so many coaches squander it by running up the middle to get the first down. It appears Vrabel took it a step further and gave up a first down on purpose to conserve clock. If the other team is running out the clock, a running play on 2nd-and-1 takes 40 seconds (or a timeout), and they still get to run three more plays on the new set of downs. Even worse, you could stuff them on 2nd-and-1, and they could pick it up on third down, giving them five more plays. By taking a penalty and gifting them the first down, you save the time and leave them with only three clock-churning plays.
- Patrick Mahomes played well (8.7 YPA, two TDs, no picks and 36 rushing yards, a few of which were crushing first downs.) And he led the team to a win against a 4-1 Bills squad on the road. But his longest completion was a 37-yard play to Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson led the team in receiving with 69 yards, and there were no shots to Tyreek Hill or Mecole Hardman.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire (26-161-0, 4-4-8) ran like a man possessed in his last game pre- Le'Veon Bell, but for the second straight week he had a TD called back, and Darrel Williams got the call on 4th-and-short which he broke for the team's only rushing score.
- Travis Kelce (7-5-65-2) got his, but no skill player has had a monster game for the Chiefs through six weeks.
- Hardman dropped his only target, and that was with Sammy Watkins out. A second-year speedster in the league's best offense should have some upside, but that's only the case if he's on the field.
- The shine has come off Josh Allen's star the last two weeks. He managed only 4.5 YPA and 122 passing yards at home against a beatable defense. The 42 rushing yards were nice, but it was a modest fantasy day that ended on a pick, costing garbage time and a possible backdoor cover.
- Stefon Diggs (8-6-46-1) and Cole Beasley (7-4-45-1) were modestly productive, but that was about it
- No one made the case for Dak Prescott's contract better than Andy Dalton. Dalton took three sacks, threw two picks (though one of which should have been a defensive PI) and got only 4.9 YPA.
- Ezekiel Elliott (12-49-0, 11-8-31) had 16 PPR points, but he lost two fumbles and now has four on the year. He won't easily be displaced given his contract and long-term status as one of the league's top backs, but that's a lot of fumbles for a running back.
- The Cowboys as usual spread the ball around, with CeeDee Lamb (10-7-64) and Amari Cooper (10-7-79) catching some short passes in garbage time. Michael Gallup (6-2-23) saw a lot of air yards early, but he dropped an easy TD. (I was going against him in the NFFC Primetime, so I was happy to see it.)
- Kyler Murray had another monster fantasy game – 188 pass yards and two TDs, no picks, one sack, 74 rushing yards and a rushing TD. He nearly overthrew a wide-open Christian Kirk (3-2-86-2) on the 80-yard TD pass, but Kirk was just able to catch up to it without falling to the turf.
- DeAndre Hopkins (8-2-73) didn't do much other than a 60-yard catch late, but chalk that up to game flow. Andy Isabella had only two targets, neither of which he caught, but they were both downfield bombs.
- Kenyan Drake was having a decent day (19-95-1), but no catches, when he took a 69-yard run to the house in garbage time against a Dallas defense that had quit. Hopefully that didn't cost you your week.