The Jets have been tweeting and chirping and crowing all off-season, pre-season and into the regular season about how they want to, plan to, expect to have the NFL’s top defense this year.
Well, this week it’s true. The Jets are No. 1.
That’s numero uno as in fewest total yards allowed per game, 241.0 on average in the season-opening win at Houston and the home-opening triumph over New England. And that figure is top of the heap in this week’s completed NFL’s defensive rankings.
I say completed because the Indianapolis-Miami Monday night game figured in this week’s rankings. The Jets, who went into Week 2 second behind the Eagles after allowing the Texans 183 yards, gave up 299 to the Pats but were still poised in second, this week behind the Colts, who gave up 228 in their opener. Had they held the Dolphins to 253 yards or less, the Horseshoes would have held No. 1 heading into Week 3.
Indy won but gave up 403 yards to Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown and the Miami Wildcats.
And so now the Jets defenders of head coach Rex Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine can say it as loud and as proud as their fans chanted their name on Sunday: "J-E-T-S, We’re Number One!"
Now, that distinction and a bunch of Ben Franklins will get you a seat at Land Shark Stadium, and not close to the sideline, to watch Super Bowl XLIV in Miami in February. But being king of the hill in yardage allowed is still a significant mile marker on the road the Jets want to travel as a unit and a team this year. One, because as far back as the NFL Combine in February, Ryan was saying:
"I’m not one to shy away from expectations. I think we’ll be terrific and i think we’re going to have a defense that our fans can be proud of."
And two, the Jets as No. 1 on D just doesn’t happen that often.
I’ve charted the NFL’s weekly rankings in the "elite eight" categories since 1995. Those are the stats that coaches, players and fans like to point to, at least when their rankings are in the single digits — overall, rushing, passing and scoring offense, and the same four on defense.
The Jets had spent exactly zero weeks as the NFL’s top defensive team from 1995-2008. The highest position they ever achieved in that span was a pair of No. 4′s, after Weeks 12 and 13 in 1998, which of course was the last time they reached the AFC Championship Game.
The Green & White’s top rank at the end of a season since 1970? That was also a No. 4, which actually came in 1970, the first year of the merged AFL and NFL.
So when was the last time the Jets defense might’ve been A-number-one? I’m embarrassed to say I can’t be sure. I guess I was putting off doing the research for a little later in the season, when the Jets were noticeably creeping up on that top rung after weeks of improving their standing.
I can report that in the 1982 strike season, the Jets of the Sack Exchange — Marty Lyons, Mark Gastineau and Abdul Salaam but minus Joe Klecko for most of the way with a knee injury — Greg Buttle, Lance Mehl and Stan Blinka at LB, Bobby Jackson, Kenny Schroy, Darrol Ray and Jerry Holmes in the secondary were No. 1.
For one week.
That was after Game 5, when they defeated the Lions at Detroit, 28-13, on Monday night, leapfrogged Buffalo and held onto the top spot for seven days, until the Bills took it back, then ultimately gave it up to the Dolphins after the final week, with the Jets slipping to sixth for the year.
Then in 1985, it was Giants 1, Jets 2 for two midseason weeks. But 2, I don’t need to tell you, isn’t 1.
Since then, well, we’re checking and crunching and so is the Elias Sports Bureau to be able to say definitively that it’s been 27 years or 442 weeks since the Jets last wore the coveted defensive crown.
OK, we’re gushing a little bit here. Ryan and his players will be greeted with questions and opinions about their status as the new Alpha dogs of NFL defense when they return to practice Wednesday for their next test, Sunday at home against the Tennessee Titans (ranked seventh offensively, by the way).
I expect all will say that it’s peachy to be ichi but it would be finer to be eine after 17 weeks and heading into the playoffs as a high AFC seed.
As for that other big stat, points allowed, which is even more closely tied to victories, the Jets are doing almost as well there. They’ve given up no defensive touchdowns, 16 points total. They are No. 2 in this category this week, behind the Denver Broncos’ 13 points allowed.
Unlike the yardage ranking, I do know the last week the Jets led the NFL in scoring defense. But I’ll save that one for another week in the near future.
Tags: Rex Ryan, Sack Exchange
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