The Jets can play a spoiler role against the Steelers and put a major dent in their playoff hopes bydefeating them in their home finale Sunday at Met Life Stadium.
They also can reassure themselves that they are near a playoff berth in the near future.
A win over the Steelers or the Bills in the final two weeks would further solidify their growing base.
Despite being rattled by injuries all season, the Jets should be relatively intact, notably with All-Pro safety Jamal Adams back in the defensive backfield.
The Jets did rise to the occasion at home against another potential team in Oakland a few weeks ago, but they nearly flopped against the Dolphins in the next home tilt.
It looms as an entertaining game in the final game at Met Life this season for Gang Green with both teams playing for their own sense of respectability.
Here is a look at some of Sunday’s subplots:
Can Sam Darnold have a big game against the big-name Pittsburgh defense?
A week ago, Darnold threw a nice touchdown pass and had an ugly interception against the sixth-ranked Ravens. He has 11 touchdowns and six interceptions in his last six games. More importantly, though, Darnold has looked like a seasoned pro moving around the pocket and making more pinpoint decisions in just his second season.
He’ll have two more stiff challenges ahead, the first being against the fourth-ranked Steelers Sunday.
Pittsburgh safety and budding star Minkah Fitzpatrick has five of the team’s 19 interception, second only to New England’s 25, to lead their ball-hawking secondary.
Darnold will need to keep his effective short- and long-game to Jamison Crowder and Robbie Anderson respectively going as well mixing in a respectable running game behind Le’Veon Bell and possibly Bilal
Powell to notch an impressive victory. Bell should be a viable option against their defense, which has allowed just over 100 yards per contest.
Oh, the Steelers also are tied for the league lead in sacks with 49.
It is a full plate for Darnold.
They have really good players, they have some really good players up front that we’re prepared for,” said Darnold about the Steelers’ defense. For me, I just have to continue to make sure that I am getting the ball out and make sure that I am not staying in there and doing any unnecessary things to cause pressure on myself or hurt the team in any fashion. I just have to continue to play smart football, but they are a really good defense and they are really good upfront especially.”
Is Bell Ready for a Breakout Game Against His Former Team?
There has been more said and assumed about Bell this season than his actual production. Whether his relationship and his future with head coach Adam Gase and the front office is on solid ground won’t be found out until the season is over.
Until then, Bell soul figured to be motivated to play against his old team even though he has downplayed the issue this week. That’s despite producing a Steelers-Jets career highlight reel on social media this week with the song “Renegade” as its sound track.
Bell is coming off a season-high 87 yards on 21 carries and his usual 4+-yard average per carry in last week’s loss at Baltimore.
The Jets need to again utilize Bell like they did against Baltimore to allowed him to have a big game and prove to the front office and fans that he can be the team’s answer to the much-sought answer for a running game. Powell also should be in the mix to provide a sturdy balance.
Can Adams Revitalize a Shredded Defensive Effort Against the Ravens?
It didn’t take Ravens’ phenom Lamar Jackson to show that he was going to have a big night againstthe Jets last week. New York couldn’t stop him on the ground nor through the air, and the game basically was over at the half.
Sunday, Adams is back and hoping to jump start the defense back to its capacity. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams stated his team “has a chip on it shoulder” after the Baltimore loss.
The Jets’ 10th-ranked defense will need to feast on the Steelers’ 31st-ranked passing and 26th-ranked running games.
They will have their entire unit intact, and look for Williams to be creative with blitzes and various packages.
Adams and the rest of the secondary will need to shut down the Steelers’ receiving corps of Diontae Johnson, Vance McDonald, Jayeln Samuels and running back James Conner, who have formed one of the league’s most underrated units.
It is the opportune time for top pick lineman Quinnen Williams, who just celebrated his 22nd birthday to lead the rush against rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges.
Outook –it could be a wild afternoon on a rather mild first-day-of winter at Met Life with plenty of Steelers’ fans mingled with the Jets’ faithful. If the Jets play their game on both sides of the Ball – like they have against Dallas and Oakland at home earlier this season – it can be the perfect home sendoff for a much-anticipated 2020 season.