Despite being mired in a four-game losing streak -- the first of the Robert Saleh era -- recent results have gone the Jets’ way, so they still have a chance to end the franchise’s league-high 12-year playoff drought. However, to stay in contention, they need to beat Seattle -- a team that is also in the playoff mix -- on the road.
Here are some of the biggest stories to watch as the Jets look to keep their playoff hopes alive:
Can Mike White spark the struggling Jets offense?
Although the Jets lost two of his three starts this year, the offense was much better with White at the helm and the team’s playoff hopes rest on whether his return will rejuvenate a team that almost looked ready to give up in its last game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In particular, his return should help to improve the Jets’ pass protection. The main reason Wilson was under more pressure over the past few weeks than White had been in his three starts is that White was being decisive and getting the ball out sooner. This will be doubly important with White still nursing sore ribs from his previous start in Buffalo last month.
Who will win the turnover battle?
The Jets have struggled to create turnovers since the bye week, but they face a team on Sunday that has turned the ball over at least once in every game this season. They need to capitalize on these opportunities when they arise.
Seattle has gone three games without creating a turnover on defense, having previously created multiple turnovers in 10 of its first 12 games. Rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen, who is considered Sauce Gardner’s main competition for this year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award, is the player to avoid because he has six interceptions and two fumble recoveries on the season.
Can the Jets slow down DK Metcalf?
Metcalf is the Seahawks’ leading receiver and his matchup with Gardner could be fun to watch as they both have size, physicality and athleticism. Metcalf has caught at least five passes in each of the last eight games and went over a 1,000 yards on the year last week.
Tyler Lockett, who leads the Seahawks with eight touchdown receptions, was also well on course for a 1,000-yard season until he broke his hand a few weeks ago. However, he’s made a remarkable recovery following surgery and could also play this weekend to take some of the attention away from Metcalf.
Can Geno Smith find the winning formula again?
The former Jets quarterback is one of the best stories in the league this year, as he was just named to his first Pro Bowl after he won the starting quarterback role in training camp.
Smith, who leads the league in completion percentage, had only four interceptions at the bye, but has thrown five in five games since then. Seattle, like the Jets, had started off 6-3 but has lost five of six since then.
The Chiefs disrupted Smith with interior pressure on Sunday, with Chris Jones in particular creating a lot of pressure. Quinnen Williams will no doubt be keen to prove he can have a similar impact.
Can the Jets get their running game going again?
In November, the Jets averaged 130 rushing yards per game, but this reduced to 78 yards per game in December. This is a sign that the running game has continued to regress since Breece Hall and Alijah Vera-Tucker were lost for the season in October.
Defenses were noticeably stacking the box with Wilson in at quarterback though, but the Jets will hope to have more success with White back in that role and facing one of the league’s worst run defenses. In addition, they may be looking to add another dimension to the running game by using backup quarterback Chris Streveler in certain packages.
After averaging 100 yards from scrimmage in his first three games, undrafted rookie Zonovan Knight gained just 21 yards on 19 carries over the last two games, and Michael Carter hasn’t been faring much better with just 66 yards on 25 carries over the last five games.
The Jets may need to pass to set up the run because if White can connect with his receivers downfield early on, that will make it easier for the offensive line to create some running lanes up front.