New York Jets
Head Coach: Todd Bowles
2014 Record: 4-12
Odds to win Division: +1200
Odds to win Conference: +3500
Odds to win Super Bowl: +8000
Season Wins: Over 7 (+130), Under 7 (-150)
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The New York Jets go in with a little uncertainty and instability at the quarterback position but are still a reasonably decent football team with a chance at scratching a .500 record.
Todd Bowles is a rookie head coach but all indications are that he will likely be a good one. The New York Jets certainly need it. Rex Ryan was unable to reign the team in and Bowles is known for having a no nonsense approach that will likely pay dividends, even in Year one.
The Jets also have a new OC in Chan Gailey who is hoping to get some production from his QB with a spread system. Gailey used a one-back approach while he was in Buffalo and his sets used a lot of short quick throws, which could be a strength of Geno Smith if he is able to assume the role. He does not employ a lot of power running schemes, but he is able to milk a lot of yardage through keeping the field spread and using his offensive line to create gaps for its back, rather than necessarily holes.
Smith was benched last year mid-way through the season but his replacement (Michael Vick) is now in Pittsburgh and out of his way.
Smith had a strong end to the season in Miami, however, which the Jets are hoping can carry over to a full season. He is the most talented of the Jets’ QBs, and that should translate to him starting at QB, but there is no guarantee with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick still in the mix and still a competent player in his own right. He did well in Buffalo under Fitzpatrick when he threw for 71 TDs between 2010-12 and the Jets also drafted Bryce Petty in the fourth round. He will likely be the third-stringer, though that notion is somewhat loose with the Jets still wanting to test the waters on Smith and Fitzpatrick to see which option best suits the team.
The RBs will return rusher Chris Ivory who amassed 821 yards on 4.1 yards per carry last season. He will be a good fit in the new offense because he is not really a power runner, anyway. Bilal Powell will also assume a larger role in the offense this year, as last year h was stifled by Chris Johnson who was not re-signed.
The Patriots also have Stevan Ridley in the mix who has averaged 4.3 yards per carry over his career, though he is coming off a knee injury. Powell and former Rams back Zac Stacy are both good receiving options from the backfield, too, which will help the Jets maintain some versatility with them on the field.
At WR Brandon Marshall battled injuries throughout last season, but if he can remain healthy he is an elite option for Smith (or Fitzpatrick) to air it out to. He is a true No. 1 receiver, and the Jets really need that type of production from a wide out. Eric Decker led the team in receptions last year with 74 and he will slide back to being the No. 2 option with a healthy Marshall in the fold. Jeremy Kerley should see more plays run for him this year, too.
Second round pick Devin Smith is lightning quick with great hands and could be a surprise player this year. He has not been great at some route variations, but he can pick that up and everyone will be learning a new scheme so it is a good chance for him to adapt as everyone else does at the same time. TE Jace Amaro could be very good, but he will have to improve his blocking to make the spread offense work fluidly.
The OL is somewhat lacking, but it was able to do a good job blocking for the RBs last season (4.5 yards per carry). It did a less stellar job with QB protection, allowing 47 sacks, though some of that falls on Smith being indecisive and remaining in the pocket long past when he should.
The Jets defense will be guided by largely by head coach Bowles, who was a DC while in Arizona with Rex Ryan. Bowles is a blitz-oriented defensive mind, and that is likely to be much the same this year with Kacy Rodgers assigned to making the calls defensively. Bowles will use a base 3-4 with some 4-3 and he has the talent on the defensive line to make it work. The Jets’ DL is top-notch and could be the best in the NFL with 2011 first round pick Muhammed Wilkerson.
Sheldon Richardson (still awaiting news a potential suspension by NFL per ESPN Aug 26), Damon Harrison and Leonard Williams will fit well in the defensive schemes and the Jets 3-4 base is one of the best in the league. The LB core is also very strong with David Harris coming off a 5.5 sack season in which he led the team in tackles. He was re-signed to a three-year deal and ILB Demario Davis is also a very good starter though he will have some competition for minutes this year with Joe Mays and Jamari Lattimore joining the fold.
Quinton Couples had 6.5 sacks last year, but he can be a much better player still and should be developed more so than he is after a few seasons in the league. The secondary is right back where it was in 2011-12 with Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis expected to start at the corners. Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor are both good safeties but Pryor has to learn to stay under control defensively.
Even with some of these question marks, the Jets have one of the better defenses in the NFL and that should give Smith and the offense some room to blunder through its initial growing pains.
Overall the Jets are going to be better this season, and the team has made a lot of upgrades all over. The team actually has a relatively high ceiling, but many are too focused on the question marks surrounding the QB position. Bowles knows he has the talent to make his schemes work, and that should be able to get this team back to .500. It could even win 10 games, but that would basically require all the players having a good learning curve and a little bit of luck.
We will temper that. 5dimes oddsmakers set the O/U at ’7’ but we think that the Jets find a way to exceed that, rather easily. It might seem a little over optimistic, but this is a football team with talent that has been largely minimized and Bowles is the coach to prevent that from happening again.
Prediction: 9 wins