The Jets' next challenge is something of a mirror image of their most recent game.
Last week it was the 5-2 Bills in an AFC East battle. Sunday they'll be taking on the 2-6 Buccaneers from the NFC South.
Rather than home, they'll be playing on the road, at Raymond James Stadium.
Instead of going after three full days of rest, they'll be on nine. Instead of a primetime kickoff, they'll be back at a 1 p.m. ET start.
Most important, though, the 4-5 Jets must deal favorably this week with being a favorite, not an underdog, if they want to stay on their Buffalo roll and get back to .500.
"We know they'll be ready to go, they'll play hard," QB Josh McCown said of the Bucs, not surprisingly one of his former employers over his 15 NFL seasons. "We know we'll have our hands full, but it will be a big one for us if we go down there and get it."
Forthwith, our weekly seven points on Jets-Buccaneers:
1. Don't Buck These TrendsThe Jets are 10-1 against Tampa Bay all-time and 3-1 in Florida. The .909 winning percentage, one loss, current eight-game win streak and plus-11.7 average point margin are all Green & White bests vs. all NFL opponents. Numbers aside, coach Dirk Koetter said Monday his Bucs are "frustrated, disappointed, confused — the mood you'd expect from a team that had very high expectations and has lost five in a row." That's a dangerous kind of foe, lying in wait at home and scheming up ways to make those infernal cannons fire multiple times.
2. Familiar ScriptThe Jets didn't score on their opening drive against the Bills, but they seem to have gotten the hang of the fast start — they haven't trailed at any time in the first halves of their last five games, a feat they last achieved in 2002. The Bucs, who've trailed at the half in their last five, are a good candidate to fall behind again, but they've finished games better this year (plus-21 fourth quarter) than the Jets (minus-60). Combined with Tampa's 2-2 home record, with competitive losses to the Patriots and Panthers, no Jets fan should leave this game early.
3. The Gannon EnigmaIn 2015 there was a fleeting feeling that Ryan Fitzpatrick was going to be "the next Rich Gannon," the QB whose career went from mediocre to championship-caliber after his 30th birthday. Alas for Jets fans, it was not to be. Now Josh McCown is vying for that title. Josh, 38, and Fitz, almost 35, who started against each other for the Browns and Jets, respectively, the previous two seasons, will start Sunday for the Jets and Bucs. And is it irony or mere coincidence that Gannon will be handling the color commentary in the CBS booth?
A Look Back at the Matchup Between the Jets and Bucs.
4. Fitz to DeSean?Fitzpatrick has inherited a good offense from the injured Jameis Winston for a few weeks, especially the third-ranked passing game. But that may be illusory, since Fitzpatrick isn't Winston — "He has a ton more talent than I do," Fitz said — and since No. 1 WR Mike Evans (40 catches, 532 yards, 4 TDs) is out on NFL suspension. WR DeSean Jackson (27-422-2) hasn't played up to his new contract yet, but he has led the league three times in yards/catch, most recently last year with Washington. CB Mo Claiborne may be set to return for a marquee matchup.
5. Under PressureBefore last week, you might've thought this game featuring the NFL's two lowest-ranked sacking D's would have the QBs sitting pretty. But while the Bucs are still No. 32 in sacks/pass play, the Jets bunched up seven sacks of Tyrod Taylor. Eight players had at least a half-sack, four had two QB hits on TT, and Leonard Williams, despite his sore wrist and half-sack, leads the defense with 13 hits on the year, followed by Jordan Jenkins with 11. As Koetter said, the Jets defenders will be happy to pat Fitz on the back, right up until "they try to rip his face off."
6. David's a GoliathOC John Morton, McCown & Co. may be eager to probe the Bucs' defense, ranked 28th in the NFL overall, a season-low 22nd vs. the run, 30th vs. the pass and tied for 25th in scoring. But WLB Lavonte David could quickly curb their enthusiasm. David leads the league with four forced fumbles this season and has 16 FFs since 2013, second in that span. The Jets first met David in the '13 opener, when he had two sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss, one INT and two PDs. However, he also had a late late hit that helped the Green & White squeak to the 18-17 win.
7. Ten Days OffIt would be great to detail how big an advantage having a week and a half between games is these days, but the numbers don't bear that out. For instance, when the Jets have played on a Thursday and then 10-11 days later, their all-time record is 12-5, but the past three seasons produced three losses. In the NFL the last five years, teams on 10 days' rest are 72-74, and those that go from a home win to a road game are an anemic 16-28, so there's no automatic edge. Just call this a nice mini-bye to help the Jets heal and prep for the Bucs.