Jets facing Texas-sized test against a hungry heavyweight

Was last week’s win over the Bills one final gasp for the dying 2018 Jets season or a sign of life?

We will find out Saturday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. The 4-9 Jets will play host to the 9-4 Texans, who are trying to win a division title in December, not playing for pride, like the Jets.

The Texans look like a lock to roll over the Jets. Their loss last week to the Colts ended a nine-game winning streak. They are a team of bold-name stars: Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Their four losses this season have all been by a touchdown or less.

In the other corner, the Jets ended a six-game losing skid with their comeback win in Buffalo. They are hopeful they have a star in the making in Sam Darnold and another one looks on his way in Jamal Adams. But they have lost their past three home games by an average of 21.7 points.

What can the Jets salvage in the final three weeks?

“Three wins are salvageable,” coach Todd Bowles said. “You still want to get better as a football team every week, and when you’re doing it while you’re winning and not while you’re losing [that is a good thing]. We won last week. We want to build off that and try to finish off on a good note.”

Jets players showed last week that they have not given up yet. They could have folded when they were down by 11 points in the first half against the Bills, but they rallied to win the game in the final minutes.

The players have vowed that no one is throwing in the towel.

“The motivation is to keep playing,” tackle Brandon Shell said. “You don’t want to be a quitter. You don’t want to be that guy that is labeled as a quitter. I know nobody in this locker room is a quitter. Everybody’s going to keep playing until it’s over.”

From a big-picture standpoint, these final three weeks are about Darnold’s development. He wowed everyone with some terrific throws last week and showed poise in the fourth quarter.

“For me, I think it’s just staying consistent,” Darnold said about the end of the season. “That’s the biggest word for me these next few games is just being a solid quarterback and someone who is able to move fast through his progressions and just stay consistent with that but also make plays when they’re there.”

Marquee Matchup

The Jets offensive line vs. the Texans pass rush

This will be a very long day for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold if the line can’t keep him upright. Houston has 36 sacks, led by all-everything defensive end J.J. Watt (12½) and former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney (seven).

The Jets line allowed no sacks last week against Buffalo and is ninth in the league with 28 sacks allowed this season.

“They move swiftly and they use their hands a lot,” right tackle Brandon Shell said. “They use power when they have to. Clowney walks around in that linebacker spot. He hits the A gaps, the B gaps, wherever he wants to hit. They have a very talented defense.”

Watt has returned from the injuries that cost him most of the 2016 and ’17 seasons and does not look like he has lost a step.

“He’s tough. He’s a great player,” coach Todd Bowles said. “I don’t have enough adjectives to say what everyone hasn’t already said. He’s a great player. He’s an outstanding football player. He approaches it the right way. He plays it the right way. We got out hands full.”

Four Downs

Defending Deshaun: The Jets passed on drafting Deshaun Watson in 2017. Now, they get to see what they missed out on.

Watson has been impressive in his second season, throwing for 3,298 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But he also can hurt teams by running the ball. He has 410 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season.

“It’s a huge concern,” coach Todd Bowles said of Watson’s mobility.

This is the third straight week the Jets have faced a running quarterback. Marcus Mariota got them late in the game with a big run two weeks ago and Josh Allen ran for 101 yards on them, most of those in the first half before the Jets adjusted.

“He definitely does a good job throwing the ball but he also makes plays with his legs — a dual-threat guy,” linebacker Avery Williamson said. “It’s definitely difficult at times to tackle him. He’s a strong kid, similar to who we just played, but I would say he’s definitely faster than Josh Allen. … He can make stuff happen.”

Here’s the catch: The Jets enter this game without their top two running backs — Bilal Powell, who has been on injured reserve for two months, and Isaiah Crowell, who was put on IR on Friday. They are also missing leading receiver Quincy Enunwa.

Who picks up the slack?

The Jets need big games from backs Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon, not just running the ball, but catching it. That will help slow down the Houston pass rush and make up for Enunwa being sidelined.

The Jets only have 56 catches from their running backs this season, 21 from Crowell. They need to be more involved Saturday.

Home sick: The Jets are 2-4 at MetLife Stadium this season and have lost their past three games there. They have this game against the Texans and next week against the Packers to close out their home schedule. The crowd Saturday figures to be a very small one considering the Jets’ record, the opponent and the rain in the forecast. It will be interesting to see if the building is more than half full or if everyone is at the mall doing their Christmas shopping.

Mr. President: There are not many bright spots to this lost season for the Jets, but second-year safety Jamal Adams has been one. The man nicknamed “The President” has had a Pro Bowl-caliber year with 86 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 2½ sacks, an interception, 11 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one recovered.

“He never gives up on a play,” Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins told reporters in Houston this week. “He has a motor like you’ve never seen before. The dude’s a monster. He’s the leader of that defense. You can tell by his play.”

Costello’s Call

The Jets showed they have not quit on the season in last week’s comeback win in Buffalo, but these are not the Bills they are playing this week. The Texans are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and will be too much for the Jets to handle.

Texans 27, Jets 20

Source: Read Full Article