By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers just established a franchise-low for passing offense against the Chicago Bears last weekend, and now the team must prepare for the New York Jets to visit this weekend. No one knows which quarterback 49ers head coach Chip Kelly will go with in Week 14, but the Jets may be the last beatable opponent on the schedule for San Francisco this season, as they have their own QB issues now as well.
One thing going in the 49ers’ favor is the fact New York played on Monday night at home against the Indianapolis Colts. That means the Jets are on a short rest this week in addition to having cross-country travel on the schedule. San Francisco needs all the good fortune it can get as the Niners try to break an 11-game losing streak.
New York is 3-9 after 12 games this season, and the Jets are the only team in the AFC East with a losing record this season. Their victories this year are over the Baltimore Ravens, the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns. It’s been a tough year for New York, as four of the losses have come by a combined 13 points. However, none of the Jets’ wins have been by more than eight points in 2016. That’s a lot of close games for one team.
However, the schedule hasn’t been kind, either. In addition to division games, New York also has lost to Kansas City and Seattle, two of the better teams in the NFL this season. With eight players on the season-ending injured reserve right now, the Jets just haven’t had much luck this year at all.
Jets On Offense
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled in 2016, tossing 14 interceptions and throwing only 10 touchdowns. After leading New York to the brink of a postseason berth last year with a 10-6 record and 31 TDs, Fitzpatrick really has dropped off this year in almost every category. Part of that has been due to the loss of wide receiver Eric Decker, but overall, the Jets have really struggled this season on offense.
Thus, the team is going with inexperienced backup QB Bryce Petty for the final four games of 2016. Petty has a 59.8 QB rating in limited action this season, which is worse than Fitzpatrick’s production, but the Jets want to see what they have in the young, second-year quarterback before the offseason comes.
New York ranks 29th in scoring right now, putting up just 17.2 points per game. Veteran running back Matt Forte hasn’t run the ball too well, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry this season. However, backup RB Bilal Powell is gaining 6.3 yards per attempt this season on 49 carries, so there is potential in the ground game for the Jets.
Jets On Defense
For a unit that is ranked just 24th in the NFL for points allowed (25.6 points per game), New York has a lot of star power on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker David Harris and cornerback Darrelle Revis may be in their early 30s, but both are still effective players in the NFL. They lead a defense that has faced some of the best offenses in the league this season, with mixed results.
The problem has been forcing turnovers, as the Jets have come up with just 10 takeaways in 2016 so far. In four straight losses now, New York’s defense has forced a single turnover. Hence, the team lost the first three of those games by five points or less before getting blown out by the Colts on Monday Night Football. That inability to come up with a big play at the right time has hurt the Jets defense all season long.
Jets Players To Watch
It’s basic football: If Forte and Powell can find holes to run through the San Francisco defense, then Petty may have a chance throwing the ball against the 49ers defense. Petty hasn’t shown that he has the ability to be a great NFL QB, but S.F. has made a lot of opposing QBs look like All-Pro players this year. Keying on Forte and Powell is a must for the Niners defense. Of course, both San Francisco QBs also want to avoid throwing Revis’ way. While he isn’t the blanketing force he was in his youth, Revis is still good enough to shut down any of the 49ers receivers.
Before the S.F. freeze out in Chicago, this was a game that looked winnable for the 49ers. Now, it’s just not so clear—even though the Jets themselves look terrible. The Niners have played better at home this year, for the most part, but until they actually win a game, it’s hard to pick them again—even against the Jets. Look for New York to escape the Bay Area with a three-point victory on Sunday afternoon, adding another painful nail to the 49ers’ 2016 coffin.