For the second week in a row, the Jets have the opportunity to take advantage of an opponent that is grossly underachieving. A stretch in the schedule that was previously thought to be brutal suddenly seems a bit more manageable.
The winless Pittsburgh Steelers are a mess right now. Things have gotten so dire that coach Mike Tomlin has banned games such as pool and ping pong from the locker room.
Unless cue sticks and paddles are to blame for their turnover problems or woes on the offensive line, prohibiting fun won't accomplish much.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is taking way too many sacks and has fumbled five times to go along with his five interceptions. While the Jets are experiencing similar issues with Geno Smith, there's a bit more leeway with a rookie as opposed to a two-time Super Bowl champion.
Safety Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh's defensive captain, has openly criticized Roethlisberger's style of play and thinks his quarterback's tendency to try and extend plays is part of the reason for their disappointing start.
Gang Green's defense should be salivating at the thought of going against an offensive line that, due to injuries and demotions, is in shambles. Expect the Jets to swarm Roethlisberger and force him into once again trying to do too much with the football.
Making matters worse for the Steelers, the team is yet to record a takeaway in their first four games. No team in NFL history has ever gone five games into the season without recording one. Giving the ball away at such a high rate while not forcing any turnovers of their own is a recipe for disaster and arguably the main reason Pittsburgh is yet to win a game.
The Steelers have used their bye week to work on their problems but it remains to be seen if they've corrected them.
Coming off of his best game as a pro, the Jets hope their quarterback has turned the corner and shed his mistake-prone ways. The Steelers rank last in sacks so Smith should have plenty of time to throw the ball, easing his decision-making process.
Pittsburgh's below average rush defense should also take some pressure off Smith. When Gang Green is able to get their running game going, it opens up the field for Smith and doesn't allow opposing defenses to sit back in coverage.
Things might be a bit more difficult for the Jets than expected as they've had to deal with a couple of serious injuries the past few days. Linebacker Antwan Barnes was placed on injured reserve Wednesday and is out for the remainder of the season. Barnes, who hurt his knee in the Monday night win over the Atlanta Falcons, has been a key component in rushing the quarterback and is just the type of player that would have given Roethlisberger fits all day long.
Already thin at cornerback, Antonio Cromartie suffered a non-contact injury at practice Thursday and his status is unknown going forward. The Jets are concerned about the injury, and given the play of some of their other corners, Cromartie is one guy they cannot afford to lose on defense.
Despite the injuries, these are the types of winnable games that the Jets need to capitalize on.
If Gang Green can continue to limit their mistakes while exploiting Pittsburgh's weaknesses, a showdown looms next week against the New England Patriots with first place in the AFC East on the line.