(CBSNY) — The New York Jets (2-7) face the Washington Redskins (1-8) this Sunday in a battle of dysfunctional franchises. Neither team is going anywhere this season, and that’s been obvious for awhile. They’re now racing each other to the bottom of the standings, which leads to the top of the NFL Draft board next offseason and, maybe, the top of the standings in future seasons. That’s the theory, anyway. With three playoff appearances this decade between them, the process has yet to actually play out that way.
The Jets opened their season with four losses, then stumbled through injuries and poor play to a couple of decent wins and way more unanswered questions. The Redskins lost their first five games, only to slip by the Miami Dolphins into the win column. They’ve lost their last three. (For some perspective, the Dolphins, the NFL’s early-season laughing stock, have since beat the Jets and may now be the best of these three teams.)
Barring a (likely scoreless) tie, which can’t officially be ruled out, one of these teams has to win. And at least the Jets have offered a few glimmers of hope. According to CBS Local digital anchor Katie Johnston, “as bad as the Jets are this season — let me preface this by saying that they don’t rank well on defense — but the unit is exceptionally good at stopping the run.”
The Jets run defense actually gives up just three yards per carry, best in the NFL, and 81.9 yards per game, second best in the NFL. In last week’s battle of New York, the Giants’ Saquon Barkley gained one yard on 13 carries. Jacksonville Jaguars back Leonard Fournette fared better the week before, picking up 76 yards on 19 carries. Only the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott has surpassed the 100-yard mark against this Jets defense.
As Johnston sees it, all of this is “…bad news for (Redskins) interim head coach Bill Callahan, who relies primarily on his backs to make the big plays.” Washington looks to old warhorse Adrian Peterson in its run game, and he’s produced at times. Peterson ran for 108 yards on 18 carries in their last loss to the Buffalo Bills, 76 yards on 14 carries in their previous loss to the Minnesota Vikings and 81 yards on 20 carries in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers before that. Final outcomes aside, those are productive outings for a 34-year-old back facing solid run defenses behind a piecemeal offensive line.
Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins will get his first home start for the Redskins. And a strong run game — any run game, really — can only help. Haskins has shown some promise in his limited time so far, but he lacks weapons in the passing game. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin can stretch the field, but he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Dolphins game. In fact, the entire team will be looking to reach the end zone for the first time in 13 quarters.
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold hasn’t had that problem. He threw a touchdown pass in last week’s win over the Giants and has reached pay dirt in every week since their shutout loss to the New England Patriots. A so-so Redskins defense should allow him to get there again.
As Johnston sees it, “the Jets really have some momentum heading into this matchup. They’ll get this one, I think.” After beating the Giants in Week 10 look for them to take another from the Redskins in Week 11.
The Jets play the Redskins Sunday @ 1 p.m. ET.