COMMENTARY | Through nine games, the New York Jets were cruising at 5-4 and matching each loss with a win; they even beat the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. But over a three-week span, rookie quarterback Geno Smith's play has gone from serviceable to terrible, and the Jets' three-game losing streak has dealt a devastating blow to their chances for the postseason.
In his last four games, Geno Smith has completed 29 out of 74 passes for 374 yards, zero touchdowns and six interceptions. He also had one rushing score but it came on 11 attempts for only 26 yards. It's good that the Jets' bye week fell in November or his numbers might have been even worse. Curiously, the month began with a 26-20 home win over the Saints, but the offensive hero that day was Chris Ivory with 18 carries for 139 yards and a touchdown.
After throwing for a career-high 331 yards against the Buffalo Bills at home in Week 3, Smith played his worst game on Nov. 17 in Upstate New York. He misfired on 15 of his 23 passes, threw three interceptions and got benched for Matt Simms at the end of an atrocious loss. Smith got benched for Simms again in the Week 13 loss to the Miami Dolphins, which was a significant setback for both the starting QB and the team's playoff hopes. Since a Week 5 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the dome, a game in which Smith had three touchdowns and a 147.7 QB rating, he has thrown one TD and 11 picks.
Smith's future with the Jets is shrouded in uncertainty, but he told reporters on Monday that quarterbacks coach David Lee informed him he would be the Week 14 starter at home against the Oakland Raiders (via ESPN's Rich Cimini). With 189 points, the Jets are the league's lowest-scoring team except for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though Smith has thrown for a respectable 2,256 yards, he has only eight TDs and an unacceptable 19 INTs. In a matter of 15 days, all the progress Smith had made with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has eroded laying their offense bare during the three-game skid.
Smith is not entirely to blame as the Jets pass-catchers leave a lot to be desired. No receiver has more than 28 receptions and tight end Jeff Cumberland leads the team with three receiving TDs. Santonio Holmes has just 13 catches and one touchdown. Jeremy Kerley has been the most reliable, but he's dealing with an elbow injury. And while rookie Stephen Hill has 24 catches, those have come inefficiently on a team-high 59 targets.
Regardless of his receivers' quality of lack thereof, Smith's production suddenly hit a brick wall in the third quarter of the season. The 5-7 Jets don't face a particularly tough schedule down the stretch, but they will surely lose at the Carolina Panthers in Week 15. They get the Raiders next and finish at home against the Cleveland Browns before wrapping up in South Florida with the Miami Dolphins. The Jets would probably need no fewer than three more wins to crack the playoffs and even 9-7 would not guarantee them a game in January.
With their tire fire at the quarterback position, they would be lucky to get to seven wins. The Dolphins have a middling pass defense in terms of yards allowed, but they have been opportunistic in collecting 16 INTs and they forced Rex Ryan to bench Smith on for the second time in three games. The Browns have a top-five pass defense, and the Raiders in Week 14 are the only soft matchup left. The Jets have won four of their six games in the swamps of New Jersey, but they have managed only one road win which came in their Monday-night shocker over the Falcons. Regardless of who is under center, it's hard to imagine the Jets thriving against the Browns or Dolphins secondaries.
Head coach Rex Ryan has the defense playing fairly well, though they haven't been able to adequately compensate for the odious offense. Gang Green reigns supreme against the run, allowing an NFL-best 77 yards per game on the ground. First-round pick Dee Milliner has been disappointing at cornerback and does not look like he will ever approach the caliber of ex-Jet Darrelle Revis. Fellow corner Antonio Cromartie has been nearly as vulnerable, and their protracted struggles have the Jets pass defense ranked 25th in yards per game, 25th in interceptions, 21st in touchdowns allowed and 27th in plays of 40 or more yards.
The Jets offense seems completely broken and the Raiders may be the only win left on the schedule. With the playoffs just a pipe dream, Geno Smith will be eager to make up for his recent tribulations, but he is just one or two poor possessions from the bench and there is no reason to believe he will halt his rookie-year regression.
Note: All statistics accurate as of Dec. 2.
Sean Hojnacki writes about football and baseball for Time Warner Cable and he covers basketball for Bleacher Report. His writing has also appeared on The Classical, Salon.com and briefly on Twitter. He lives in Jersey City, NJ with his wife and a cat named after Melky Cabrera.
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