The Jets' defensive rankings in the NFL slipped some following the Atlanta game in London. But one metric that has remained high and strong is their red zone defense: The Green & White still have the NFL's second-best RZ unit, behind only New Orleans.
"This defense is made of the right stuff, in terms of give us an inch of grass and we'll protect it," head coach Robert Saleh said recently. "They take that to heart and it's been pretty cool to watch."
The Jets' 42.9% rate in allowing opponents touchdowns in the red zone may sound high, but that's because everyone's scoring numbers are soaring in this mini-era of increasing TD rates all over the field. The red zone rate for the entire NFL in 2000 was 47.2% but it has risen regularly for two decades to highs of 62.7% last season and 61.8% through six weeks this year.
But this is one way of capturing the importance of the rating: If the Jets maintain their 42.9% rate all season, it would be tied for seventh-best in franchise history. Here are the top seven full-season Jets red zone defenses all-time (*2021 numbers through five games):
The correlation between red zone defense and winning football isn't ironclad, but it's still interesting to note that the top seven Jets teams in this category all finished their regular seasons at .500 or better and three of them reached the playoffs.
It's also intriguing that the NFL's six-week leaders in this category from 2015-21 include the 2015 Jets, Todd Bowles' first Green & White team, which led the league after six weeks at 33.3% and also for the full season at 35.0%. And the 2019 leaders after six weeks were the 49ers, R.Saleh, defensive coordinator, at 25.0%.
As suggestive as red zone stats can be, they can also be fickle. The Jets were at 35% before the Falcons scored three TDs in four RZ trips.
Now up come the Patriots. The Jets held them to one TD in three trips in Week 2, and the Pats' RZ offense is 30th in the NFL (44.4%). But that marked 16 straight games vs. the Jets that New England had scored at least one red zone TD, averaging 60% TDs in the RZ in that span.
One big test of how the Jets will fare coming out of their bye for the rest of the season will be how they hold up against their longtime AFC East nemeses, especially inside their 20.