Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New York Jets: Will the bye week help them heading into the second half?

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Coming off their best game of the season, the Jets will take a week off before heading to Buffalo for a divisional clash with the 4-2 Bills. After building momentum with a great second-half performance against San Diego, is hitting their bye week a good or bad thing for the Jets?

Getting Healthy

The bye comes at a perfect time for numerous New York players, none more so than All-Pro center Nick Mangold. Mangold returned three weeks ago against New England but has been limited in practice and looked out of rhythm at times against the Chargers. He was even uncharacteristically called for multiple penalties last week, including one that negated an early Santonio Holmes touchdown and led to an interception two plays later. The extra rest should allow Mangold, who has been playing at less than 100 percent on a high ankle sprain, to fully heal so he can back to practice and take the necessary reps with the first-team offense.

The Jets much-maligned rush defense should also receive a boost after a solid performance containing San Diego's Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert. Mike DeVito hurt his knee in practice late last week and missed Sunday's game, while rookie Kenrick Ellis filled in and sprained his ankle in the first quarter. According to Rex Ryan, DeVito would not have been ready for a game this weekend but should be good to go for the Bills game, as should Ellis. The Jets will need both along a thin defensive front to stop Fred Jackson, who ranked second in the league in rushing before Buffalo's bye last week.

David Harris also suffered a sprained ankle in the second quarter against San Diego and missed time before returning later in the game. While his injury is far from worrisome, as it's not a high-ankle sprain like Mangold's, the extra week should allow him to make sure he's back at full strength as well.

The Jets running game finally got off the ground against a tough Chargers front seven, but both Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson missed snaps in the game. Greene appeared to injure his ankle on a non-contact play in the fourth quarter but returned to the game shortly after, possibly because Tomlinson was sidelined with the flu. Both players should be fine by this weekend, and a full week of practice behind an offensive line that finally seems to be gelling should lead to good things on the ground for the Jets against Buffalo's 25th-ranked rush defense.

Momentum Breeds Chemistry

The Jets seemed to put things together on both sides of the ball in the second half of last week's game and, after watching the tape and analyzing the good and bad from their performance, should be able to use the bye week to build on what they did right and eliminate what they did wrong last week.

Mark Sanchez and Plaxico Burress finally got on the same page, connecting for three short touchdowns that proved to be the difference in the game after having to field questions about their chemistry (or lack thereof) the week before. The pair certainly put those issues to rest with Sunday's performance and with two weeks to prepare for a Bills secondary that has struggled at times, fans have to wonder what's in store for an encore.

The Jets will also look to build on the momentum from their best rushing performance of the season and their first game holding the opposition under 100 yards on the ground since Week 1. Shonn Greene went over 100 yards for the first time all year, hitting holes that weren't there in previous weeks with newfound authority, creating yards after initial contact and bouncing off defenders like the pinball he was as a rookie. The defense held a hot Chargers running game to just 97 yards, forcing Philip Rivers to beat the Jets' secondary. He couldn't.

Confidence Lingers

Ryan and the Jets have always been a confident bunch, but now they will have two weeks to wallow in their biggest win of the season. That would be a negative for many teams, but this bunch has played with a target on their back since making the AFC Championship game in 2009 and seems to thrive under the expectations of success. It also seems to help when Ryan says something controversial in the week leading up to the game, which we should expect about a week from now.

Coming off a three-touchdown performance and two more weeks of practice with Burress and emerging rookie Jeremy Kerley, the inconsistent Sanchez should head into Buffalo on a high note with his receiving corps. He will need all the confidence he can get, as the Bills led the NFL with 12 interceptions before going on bye last week.

The defense has also played with a certain swagger, which seemed to return in the final 30 minutes against the Chargers, who struggled to move the football and didn't score a point after the second quarter. If the Jets can contain Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick may have a difficult time beating Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie considering the multiple injuries to his receivers.

Naysayers may believe that a two-week layoff is the worst thing to happen to the Jets right now, as they are flying high after a strong performance against a team many thought could represent the AFC in the Super Bowl (do we say that every year about San Diego?). However, New York is still a flawed team with issues they need to fix and you can bet Ryan has not lost sight of that after just two victories. The extra week should help the Jets further fix these flaws in preparation for a second-half playoff push.

New York finally put together a complete half for the first time all season and despite their struggles, still sit at 4-3, which says a lot about the potential of this team. With Baltimore losing a terrible game on Monday night in Jacksonville, no AFC contender has been as consistent as the Packers in the NFC. The playoff picture is still wide open and a confident Jets squad is one that nobody wants to play in the season's second half, especially consider they still haven't put it all together for an entire game this season.

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