Maybe the New York Jets’ current two-game slide represents an overachieving team reverting to normal.
But don’t rule out the notion that the Jets are a respectable squad that fell short due to late-game miscues against bitter division rivals. Against the New England Patriots two weeks ago and the Miami Dolphins in Week 7, they lost by a combined 10 points.
Their opponents Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons, come to MetLife Stadium also having lost their last two to New England and Miami as part of a three-game skid. Atlanta hasn’t looked like the same team that led the Pats, 28-3 in the third quarter of the Super Bowl in February.
Here are three keys to the matchup between two teams looking to turn it around in New Jersey.
Be clutch, but be careful
Josh McCown is playing well, in the context of low preseason expectations. He’s completing 69.2 percent of his passes and the Jets (3-4) has won two or three more games than many thought by this point.
While McCown’s grip on the starting QB gig is reasonably secure at the moment, he must cut down on turnovers like the one in the final minute of last Sunday’s 31-28 loss at Miami. His five interceptions the last four games are worrisome. The Falcons (3-3) enter this one with two picks (tied for 28th), so this matchup favors McCown on paper.
Julio Jones is one the handful of receivers considered the best of the best. This year, his production hasn’t matched his reputation. The Falcons wideout ranks outside the top 10 in catches and yards, and it wasn’t until last week’s 23-7 loss to the Patriots that he snagged his first touchdown.
None of that is reason for Gang Green and cornerback Morris Claiborne to worry any less about what Jones can do. This is the same player who has caught 13 or more passes a dozen times — once in the postseason — and gained 300 receiving yards in a single game last October.
Gain an edge
Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fewer sacks than the Jets’ 10 this season. The New York Sack Exchange, this ain’t.
Unfortunately, Atlanta has protected reigning MVP quarterback Matt Ryan well this season, making the task of turning their pass rush around all the more challenging. The team ranks tied for 24th with 11 sacks allowed.
Seven games in, and neither Leonard Williams nor Muhammad Wilkerson have brought down the opposing QB despite playing nearly 80 percent of defensive snaps on the D-line. Ditto for Kony Ealy, a pass-rush specialist. It’s well past time one or all of those players bring the heat.