NFL Handicapping: The Sporadic New York Jets
by Trevor Whenham - 11/8/2013
The New York Jets are driving me crazy. I don’t really care about the team personally. I think Rex Ryan is a bit of a moron, but not so much that I care whether he wins or loses. As a bettor, though, I think I have handicapped this team incorrectly every week. It shouldn’t be that tough — they have followed every win with a loss all season long. Every time I feel like I have a sense of what to expect, though, they just prove me completely wrong.
Just look at what we have seen from this team in the last six weeks. They got absolutely crushed by the Titans in Tennessee, but then they bounced back the next week on the road and won at Atlanta. Then they lost a one-sided game to a really lousy Pittsburgh team — one of only two wins the Steelers have — but then beat the Patriots. They carried that momentum forward to lose by 40 at Cincinnati, but then they beat one of the top teams in the NFC when they got past the Saints last week. It’s a freaking rollercoaster ride.
You can look for some method to the madness that has been this season, but it is tough to find. They have won four of five at home, but the one loss was to the Steelers — at best just the second-best team they have played at home. Two of their road games have been within three points — tight affairs — while the other two they have lost by 25 and 40. They were absolutely outclassed by the Bengals, one of the better teams in the AFC — the 40-point beatdown was one of the ugliest, most lopsided games in the league this year. Cincinnati came out the next week and struggled badly in a loss against the Dolphins on Thursday night to further devalue the Jets’ performance, But then New York came back and beat the Saints, one of the top teams in the NFC. They scored 30 against the Falcons and again two weeks later versus New England. In between they managed just six against the Steelers. You can look for order, but it just isn’t there.
The team has given me an ulcer and cost me some sleep, but I’m not going to give up just yet. They are on their bye week now, so it’s like a whole new season when they return to the field again next week in Buffalo. When you are trying to figure out what to expect from this team going forward (besides the unexpected, of course), here are three factors to consider:
Geno Smith: Smith has looked about exactly like what he is — a talented rookie QB. We have been spoiled in recent years with superhuman rookie performances from guys like Dalton, Newton, Luck, Griffin, and Wilson. Smith hasn’t been playing at that level, but most don’t. He’s had flashes of brilliance surrounding by plenty of frustration. There are two good reasons to expect more from the second half, though. First, a bye week is a gift for a young QB. They get a chance to review, learn and adjust without the pressure of game preparation looming. When you have such a limited amount of experience under your belt, this is incredibly valuable. Second, the team is getting some serious injury relief on offense. Santonio Holmes, Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland are all scheduled to be back. For a young QB, a top receiving threat and two reliable tight end outlets can have a massive benefit.
Schedule: You have to take the analysis of the schedule with a grain of salt, because they have beaten really good teams and lost to really bad ones. That being said, the schedule could certainly be tougher. They don’t have a game that is absolutely terrifying, and only the trip to Carolina ranks as a really tough game the way that team is playing right now. They face what should be straightforward tests at Buffalo and at home against Oakland and Cleveland. They have two games remaining with the Dolphins, and who knows what that team will look like later in the year if this whole offensive line debacle continues to rip the squad apart. And a trip to Baltimore isn’t particularly frightening this year as the combination of a Super Bowl hangover and the loss of talent has really hit the squad hard. The first half of the season wasn’t that tough on paper for the Jets, either, but they are definitely past the worst of their schedule.
ATS: With the exception of the second game of the season when they lost a close one in New England as big underdogs, the team has covered the spread when they have won and failed to cover when they haven’t. The one thing that could be different in the second half, though, is which team is the favorite. The Jets have only been favored once — Week 3 at home against the Bills. In the second half they could be favored in as many as five of their games if they play like they have been playing or step the quality up a little bit. That shift would make their ATS performance in the first half of the season virtually meaningless in terms of what to expect going forward.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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