Correcting Walter Football: New York Jets season preview

I personally guarantee that the New York Jets will win at least three games this season.

It doesn’t sound that impressive, but I know my bold statement would blow at least one analyst away.

I have always respected the NFL analysis of Walter Football (no relation to Johnny), an online football guru who’s made a name for himself running walterfootball.com. He’s especially on top of his game around draft time. He goes very in-depth, creating mock drafts seven rounds long while the glamour analysts at ESPN only stick to one. If you’re craving a 2015 mock draft in September, go check his out.

Just brace yourself, first, for which team Walter has drafting number one overall.

Again, it’s tough because I really like and respect this guy. It’s just really unfortunate that on the 2014 New York Jets, Walter is dead wrong. He proclaims Gang Green will go 2-14 and be the worst team in the league.

I didn’t want to write a run-of-the-mill season preview for the Jets, so this is how I’ll frame it: Walter Football is wrong and I am right.

Now, I don’t claim to know more about football than Walter Football himself. The most I can claim is to have a pretty good hunch he has a personal vendetta against the Jets. A Patriots fan? It remains to be seen.

http://walterfootball.com/offseason2014nyj.php

I linked to this earlier in the offseason. Now I want to expose it again and break it down, correcting the most egregious pieces of “analysis.” If I tried to address everything he said, this piece would be twice as long, and I don’t think any of you signed up for 5,000 words by clicking my story. (Pause for a fair warning. If you couldn’t already tell, I can get snarky when it comes to defending my team.)

Considering Jets fans make up my entire readership, maybe I’m preaching to the choir. But no, the Jets are not the worst team in football. The 2-14 projection is especially insulting because he also projects Dallas, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Oakland all to go 3-13. There has never been a 16-game season where five teams won three games or fewer. This is more a reflection of how many teams he thinks are laughably bad than it is a valid prediction. Some of the worst NFL teams in recent memory went 4-12.

But let’s get to the points at hand in Walter Football’s preview article, starting at the very end with the overall analysis.

“The Jets have one of the least-talented rosters in the NFL. They were able to finish 8-8 last season because they had young, enthusiastic players whom Rex Ryan was able to coach up. That’s not the case this season, as John Idzik added some overpriced and/or lethargic pieces to the roster who will fail to live up to expectations. Combine this with a lack of depth and a tough schedule in the first half of the season, and it’s very likely that the Jets will quit in the second half of 2014, much like the Texans did last year.”

Jace Amaro didn't ever make it into this article, so let this be a reminder that the rookie tight end will be mentioned plenty in the weeks to come.

Jace Amaro didn’t ever make it into this article, so let this be a reminder that the rookie tight end will be mentioned plenty in the weeks to come.

It’s not a roster laden with Pro Bowlers, but just look at the Jets’ front seven, solid offensive line and new upgrades at offensive skill positions. You know who is less talented? Dallas, for one. They have a good offense but an absolutely talentless defense. Analysts are already predicting they’ll be worse than the historically bad 2012 Saints’ defense.

The Jets are also more talented than the Jaguars, Titans, Raiders, Giants, Bills, Vikings and Texans. I may get some disagreements on the last three, but Buffalo lost a key piece of its defense in linebacker Kiko Alonso to an ACL injury, Minnesota has no great players after Adrian Peterson, Houston’s offense is in shambles, and each of these teams’ quarterback circumstances are far more dubious than New York’s. The Jets are a more well-rounded team than anyone on that list. Adding the Cowboys, that’s a quarter of the league off the top of my head.

Now, to “overpriced and/or lethargic.” Believe it or not, disagreeing with how much a free agent player gets paid doesn’t determine if that player is “doing it for the money.” I know you’re talking about Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, Walter. Can I promise they’ll set the world on fire? No, but are they the best options at their positions that New York has had the past two seasons? Without a doubt.

Oh, but there may have been someone else Walter was talking about along with Decker and Johnson. It was hard for me to tell at first because he refuses to call Michael Vick by name.

“Philadelphia’s former starting quarterback, Chris Johnson and Eric Decker are all big names,” he ironically rants, calling Vick this substitute label on first reference in the article. “Philadelphia’s former signal-caller will start at some point. The coaching staff is insisting that Geno Smith will get the nod, but they’re protesting too much. Smith proved to be inconsistent and incompetent last year, so he won’t last very long as the starter if he even gets the job.”

Walter Football was very outspoken against Vick being reinstated by the NFL in 2009. I understand if that’s how he legitimately feels, but this treatment of Vick stoops to a level of childishness, not peaceful protest. The “logic” that follows – Geno wasn’t good last year so he will never be good – is no less juvenile.

Since we’ve actually seen training camp and the preseason at this point, unlike Walter when he wrote his preview last summer, I’ll concede now that Vick didn’t really try to win the starting job. He’s really there if the Jets need him to run the Marty Mornhinweg offensive system he knows how to run. But The Philadelphia Eagles’ And Atlanta Falcons’ Former Pro Bowl Starting Quarterback Who Used To Wear Jersey #7 And Now Wears #1 (this is fun, actually!) – he won’t need to see the field, the way Smith looked this summer. If the preseason is any indication, the second-year QB is not set up for a sophomore slump, but rather a much better season under center.

Look at how much his teammates hate being around him. Michael Vick sure must be a locker-room cancer, huh, Walt?

Look at how much his teammates hate being around him. Michael Vick sure must be a locker-room cancer, huh, Walt?

On defense, I won’t touch Walter’s criticism of the secondary, because it’s completely fair to call the unit “brutal” right now. But this guy wants to try to find negatives about the front seven, the Jets’ strongest unit, even if he has to make them up.

“They’ll need [Coples to step up] because they don’t have any other competent pass-rushers on the exterior. Calvin Pace registered 10 sacks in 2013, but most of that was a product of the defensive line. He’ll turn 34 in October, so he probably won’t be as productive this upcoming season.”

The same defensive line is still there, buddy, so who cares if that’s how his sack chances were created? He still made the sacks. Secondly, Pace’s 10-sack 2013 was his career best, so being one year older won’t make that much of a difference. That’s not to mention that Walter wrote this before the Jets signed Jason Babin, who will rotate with Coples, Pace and an eventually healthy Antwan Barnes on the outside. This feeds into the greater question about why Walter Football and so many other entities write their season previews pre-training camp, but I digress.

(I’m not even going to waste time on “inside linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis will also need to perform on a higher level” and “Davis has proven to be a bust.” Refer back to my Monday manifesto to deal with that garbage.)

I’ll admit that the Jets have it much harder this year. They own the ninth-toughest strength of schedule in the league, although Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com used a two-year regression and a 2.5-point home-field advantage to rank schedules, and found the Jets actually have the 13th-easiest schedule by that formula. Either way – 2-14? Here’s a better look at how the Jets’ season should go.

  1. Oakland – WIN. Derek Carr will be the only rookie quarterback making his first career start this weekend. The Jets will see to it that Carr spends a lot of time on the ground. On the other side of the ball, Oakland wasn’t holding back even mediocre offenses the last time I checked.
  2. @Green Bay – LOSS. The Jets then begin a dreaded six-game stretch of great opposing quarterbacks, starting with Aaron Rodgers. Between the QB, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy, the Packers will put up too many points for the Jets to keep up with.
  3. Chicago – WIN. Being at home on a Monday night will favor the Jets, and the Bears didn’t do very much to fix their anemic run defense, which New York’s three-headed backfield will exploit.
  4. Detroit – LOSS. With new additions Golden Tate and Eric Ebron, the Lions might have the most offensive weapons in the NFL. Again, I love the Jets’ defense and give them credit, but it’ll be another long day against a powerful aerial attack and a deep backfield.
  5. @San Diego – LOSS. I could see this game going either way, but if I’m being honest with myself, that’s the type of game the Jets tend to lose. It’s the Jets’ furthest road trip of the year, and nobody gave Philip Rivers enough credit for his performance in 2013. Nobody.
  6. Denver – LOSS. I’m not about to pick the Jets against Peyton Manning. The Broncos also worked on their defense since their Super Bowl blowout loss, signing DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward.
  7. @New England – LOSS. The Jets have to play Peyton Manning and Tom Brady back-to-back over a span of five days, and this game is in Foxboro.
  8. Buffalo – WIN. If there is a team you want to see on your schedule when you’re on your way down, it’s Buffalo, particularly Kiko Alonso-less Buffalo. The 2-5 Jets will be at home on ten days’ rest and desperate for a win.
  9. @Kansas City – LOSS. Maybe the Chiefs won’t take the league by storm like last year, especially with a harder schedule. But it’s never easy to beat them at Arrowhead Stadium, and Jamaal Charles is one of two running backs on this schedule I don’t trust the Jets’ front seven to take care of.
  10. Pittsburgh – WIN. This might be the most evenly-matched game on the Jets’ schedule. Pittsburgh no longer has Emmanuel Sanders, the kind of speedster that would burn the Jets’ secondary, and their defense doesn’t blow me away anymore.
  11. @Buffalo – LOSS. I’m accounting here for the bad division loss typical of the Jets. Coming off their bye week won’t matter – the Jets had the same exact bye week last year, played the same Bills in upstate New York and got creamed. That’s not why it will happen, just showing that it can happen.
  12. Miami – WIN. The season turns around in December, starting with the first of two matchups with Miami (and the second of the Jets’ home Monday Night Football games). The Jets have been great against Miami as of late, and they’ll be able to expose the Dolphins’ porous offensive line all day.
  13. @Minnesota – WIN. Here’s the team with that other running back I’m worried about. The thing is, this game will be outside in Minneapolis in December. It will be a messy-weather game, or at least a very cold one, and defense always prevails over bad QB play in those situations.
  14. @Tennessee – WIN. Who knows who the Titans’ quarterback will be at this point in the year? I still see Tennessee as one of the worst teams in football, but their Week 15 record may not reflect it because they benefit from playing in a division with two more of the worst teams in football. Regardless, they are just no match for the Jets.
  15. New England – WIN. The Jets are much better against New England when they play in Jersey. If my predictions are right, the Jets are currently on a roll and aiming for a wild card berth, while New England might be in a position to rest some of their starters at this point.
  16. @Miami – WIN. A five-game winning streak to end the season? I’m not trying to copy or exaggerate last year’s performance; it isn’t my fault New York got easy December schedules two years running.

That makes my official prediction for the 2014 New York Jets 9-7. It’s a small improvement from last year, all things considered – tougher schedule and weaker pass D, but stronger offense and ever-dominating front seven. Nine wins can be enough to earn a wild card berth in the AFC, the leauge’s weaker conference.

He may be retired from the public eye, but when it's game time, we are all Fireman Ed.

He may be retired from the public eye, but when it’s game time, we are all Fireman Ed.

Even if absolutely everything goes wrong for the Jets, how do they go 2-14, Walter? I understand they have a much more difficult schedule this year, playing nine games against likely playoff candidates (I’ll throw Pittsburgh in there with the big boys to keep it to two subsets of teams). But out of their subset of seven very winnable games – Buffalo twice, Miami twice, Oakland, Minnesota and Tennessee – they would have to lose five to hit 2-14.

But he does think it. Walter is quick to believe the Jets, the same Jets who saved Rex Ryan’s job last year by winning meaningless games after being eliminated from playoff contention, will pack it in after losing a bunch of tough games in the first half of the season. Why? “‘Cause it happened to the Texans, too!”

Would you like a “too long; didn’t read” recap? Point by point, perhaps? I can provide one.

  1. Walter Football is an online football analyst I really respect when he isn’t talking about the New York Jets, who he claims are one of the least-talented teams in the NFL and projects to finish 2-14 in 2014, dead last in the league.
  2. He calls Eric Decker “overpriced,” Chris Johnson “lethargic” and Michael Vick “Philadelphia’s former starting quarterback,” and argues that this trio will somehow make the Jets’ offense worse than it used to be and ultimately lead to the team’s downfall. Yeah, a team who got to 8-8 with a rookie starting quarterback and Jeremy Kerley as his best receiving option. These guys will make that team worse.
  3. He throws shade at the defense, particularly the linebackers. He proclaims New York’s D is “one of the weaker units in the NFL” despite simultaneously admitting that the defensive line is “arguably the best three-man front in the NFL.”
  4. Points 2 and 3 ignore a lot of common sense in favor of a narrative resembling a Jet-hater’s fever dream. The backfield is better. The receiving and tight end corps is better. Geno Smith is better. The front seven and O-line are underappreciated, and despite a messy secondary, the New York Jets haven’t shown this much promise in years.
  5. Realistically, the Jets can win nine games, but no fewer than five.

If you made it to the end of my diatribe, thank you for sticking with it and I hope you enjoyed it. If you made it to the end and you are Walter Football – no hard feelings. I’ll be in contact with you soon. When the Jets win their third game of the year, just one tweet directed @walterfootball should suffice. Just a friendly “I told you so.”