COMMENTARY | On the eve of the NFL season, if someone had said a New York team would fall victim to woeful quarterback play, a questionable pass rush, no semblance of a running game, and a shaky offensive line, you'd likely shake your head and say, Well, that's the New York Jets.
My, how the tables have turned. The problems that faced this Jets team heading into the 2013 NFL campaign instead plague their MetLife Stadium co-tenants, the New York Giants.
If it weren't for a lapse in judgment by offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg - who decided to NOT run the ball in a rainstorm in New England in Week 2 - this Jets team might be the most unexpected undefeated team in the last decade. The Giants, on the other hand, are the worst NFL team outside of north Florida.
Woeful Quarterback Play. Take away that horrendous fourth quarter against the New England Patriots (3-12, 55 yards, 3 interceptions) and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has played respectably (59% completion percentage, three touchdowns and three picks, 250 yards passing per game). At times, he shows his inexperience, but - aside from that New England game - it hasn't killed them.
Eli Manning, on the other hand, has been the ringleader of a horrible offensive unit. The Giants - whose best years, like the Jets, were led by a ground-and-pound attack with big passing plays sprinkled in - rely too heavily on Eli's arm, and it's showed in the results: huge passing yardage (931 yards through three games) and plenty of mistakes (eight interceptions, worst in the league).
Questionable Pass Rush. The hallmark of the New York Giants, historically, is a fierce pass rush. Through three games, they're worst in the NFL with a mere three sacks. In addition, they're not even knocking down the quarterback. That lack of pressure has trickled down to every level of the defense, and it shows on the scoreboard: They're the worst scoring defense in the NFL (allowing 38 points per game).
The Jets, on the other hand, have the most underrated defense in the league. They have a top-10 scoring defense (16.7 point per game), are tied for third with 12 sacks, and are allowing the fourth fewest yards per game in the league.
No Running Game. At one point, the Jets had five running backs vying for the starting job - including one who was injured and another who faced jail time. The New York Giants had a first-round pick in-waiting.
Today, David Wilson has taken up permanent residence in head coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse while little-known Bilal Powell has become an unlikely top-10 rusher. Wilson's supposed big-play ability - with speed and moves that had fantasy football diehards drooling - has been non-existent, while his major question marks heading into the season (fumbling the ball and pass-protecting) have been on full display.
Powell, on the other hand, just runs through people. It's not quick or pretty, but it's getting the job done, as he's averaged the same amount of yards per game (75.3) that Wilson has accumulated for the entire season.
Shaky Offensive Line. Nick Mangold, D'Brickshaw Ferguson and company have allowed nine sacks and 20 quarterback hits through three games, partially because of Geno Smith's inexperience as he rolls out of the pocket too often. However, they're gelling; in Week 3 against Buffalo, they only allowed a single sack. If only this unit could cut down on the costly penalties (we're looking at you, Vladimir Ducasse).
The New York Giants, meanwhile, are a train wreck. There's no push on the line to run block, making them the worst rushing offense in the entire league (only 44 yards per game). That leaves the offense in Eli Manning's hands, which also leaves him vulnerable to a constant pass rush that this offensive line can't protect against; Manning has been sacked 11 times and knocked down another 22 times.
Can the Jets ride this unexpected wave of success to an even more improbably season? Possibly. The next three games - at Tennessee, at Atlanta and versus Pittsburgh - are looking more and more winnable. The Giants, on the other hand, face undefeated teams in Kansas City and Chicago, with a dangerous Philadelphia team lurking.
It's looking more and more like Big Blue - not Gang Green - will be the laughingstock of New York by season's end.
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