Some folks don’t like to hear why it should be a “given” that a team like the 0-13 New York Jets will lose to the 9-4 Los Angeles Rams. They call it a “jinx.” Then at least I know those people won’t mind reading about three things that could go wrong against the Jets on Sunday.
It’s worth taking every team seriously and the Jets are closer to having a few wins this season than many may realize.
I do not believe that New York will get their first victory of the season on Sunday because the Rams have players like Aaron Donald on their side. I’m mostly confident every Sunday because of him. However, things can and do go wrong for players and teams every week in the NFL. What could go wrong for LA — so we know we want to avoid seeing?
Interceptions and fumbles are the great equalizers in football. In Week 4 against the Broncos, the Jets trailed 27-16 early in the fourth quarter but then took a 28-27 lead after Denver quarterback Brett Rypien threw picks on back-to-back drives. The Broncos went up 30-28 and when New York had the ball at midfield and decided to go for it on fourth down, Sam Darnold was sacked by Bradley Chubb. Denver scored on a 43-yard Melvin Gordon touchdown run on the next play.
But the Broncos were playing with fire late in the game despite sacking Darnold six times and converting six of 12 third down attempts.
Two weeks ago, the Jets trailed the Raiders 24-21 in the fourth quarter when Henry Ruggs fumbled on a first down catch with 8:45 remaining. New York scored a touchdown six plays later to take the lead, then got the ball back with 1:42 remaining after a turnover on downs. But the Jets couldn’t get a first down and Ruggs scored on a 46-yarder with :05 seconds remaining.
The Rams have turned the ball over in all 13 games this season and rank 25th overall in that category. Jared Goff will need to protect the football, but so do the receivers, as they’ve combined for six fumbles this season.
Can’t run the football
As any rational fan of the sport knows, many teams’ offenses need to be able to run the football well in order to have success and many of those teams have won Super Bowls because of it. The Rams are well aware of how much more potent their offense is when it has a dynamic player in the backfield.
In Week 11, the Jets trailed the Chargers 34-26 when they got the ball back with 2:48 remaining in the game. Joe Flacco had first-and-10 at the Chargers 32 but all three deep balls he threw into the end zone fell incomplete. Maybe if they had gotten lucky on one of them, the Jets would be 1-12 right now.
The LA Chargers rushed for 29 yards on 26 attempts.
The Rams have been a fairly consistent rushing team but they got tripped up in that area against the Giants and Bucs, rushing for fewer than 60 yards in each. Both of those games were close and New York kept the game tight enough to be worried about an upset throughout. The Jets rank fourth in yards per carry allowed this season.
Special teams errors
Rams fans — and coaches — have worried all season that a missed kick could cost them a win. Matt Gay has been given a vote of confidence by Sean McVay, but he’s still missed two kicks inside of 50 yards over his eight attempts this season. And we’ve yet to see him kick one beyond 50. In fact, only Sam Sloman (0-of-1) has attempted a kick of 50 or more yards for LA this year.
We also know that the Rams have had issues with fumbling punt returns and they have allowed a punt return touchdown once this season. Additionally, LA is averaging 20.2 yards per kick return and is allowing 28.7 yards per kick return. It’s not the same as when Bones was in charge, though maybe he would have insisted in investing into these positions.
This is not necessarily an area where New York will excel either. Kicker Sergio Castillo missed three relatively short kicks last Sunday and the Jets only have six punt returns for 47 yards on the season. However, with special teams, anything can happen at any given time.