The New York Jets are the first National Football League team in 35 years without a touchdown through their first three preseason games, and oddsmakers said their chances of having a winning season are dropping.
The Jets, who made headlines in the offseason by signing Tim Tebow as a backup to starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, have gone 35 drives and 174 plays in the preseason without putting the ball in the end zone.
With the Jets struggling on offense, the odds at Las Vegas sports books suggest that coach Rex Ryan’s squad now has a 42 percent chance to go 9-7 or better, down from 59 percent earlier this offseason, according to RJ Bell, the founder of Las Vegas-handicapping information website Pregame.com.
“There’s more questions there than there are answers in terms of their offensive line, in terms of their group of receivers,” former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, an NFL analyst for CBS Corp., said in an interview. “How patient is Rex going to be in terms of assessing does he need to make a change at the quarterback position if they get off to a slow start? That patience can also be magnified by the chants that start to come out from the fans.”
The Jets fell to 0-3 in the preseason with a 17-12 loss to the Carolina Panthers two days ago.
“The way I see it, we’re saving all of our good stuff for the regular season,” said Sanchez, who’s completed 24-of-35 passes for 203 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions during the preseason. Tebow has connected on 13-of-36 passes for 151 yards and has also been intercepted twice while rushing for 84 yards on 11 carries.
The Jets, who are coming off an 8-8 season following consecutive trips to the American Football Conference championship game under Ryan, open their 2012 regular-season schedule on Sept. 9 against the Buffalo Bills. Ryan said the offense is “making strides” as the opener approaches.
“By the time we get going, we will be a confident group,” Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt. Have we had our entire offensive package out there in the preseason? No. Do we feel comfortable with our offense? I would say yes.”
The last team that failed to score a touchdown in its first three preseason games was the 1977 Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons went on to have a 7-7 record that season and missed the playoffs while ranking 25th out of 28 NFL teams in points scored. Their defense allowed the fewest points in the league.
Before the preseason, oddsmakers listed the Jets’ projected number of wins at 8.5, with bettors expecting nine wins or more having to wager $145 to win $100. While the team’s over/under for wins is still 8.5, bettors now can wager $100 to make a $140 profit on the Jets to go 9-7 or better.
Those odds indicate the Jets’ chances of having a winning season have moved to 42 percent from 59 percent, Bell said.
While disappointed about the inability to score against the Panthers, Tebow said the Jets realize it’s still the preseason and the records don’t count yet.
“You have to work on what you did bad and how you can get better and make sure that when the regular season gets here and we’re playing Buffalo, we can put the ball in the end zone, because that’s what matters,” said Tebow, whom the Jets acquired in a March trade with the Denver Broncos.
After the Jets landed Tebow, their odds of winning the Super Bowl were 25-1, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book. They’ve now moved to 35-1, “a reflection of their lack of positive production” in the preseason, said LVH assistant sports book manager Jeff Sherman. Of the NFL’s other 31 teams, 15 have better odds to win the Super Bowl than the Jets.
While oddsmakers, analysts and fans question the Jets, Sanchez said morale is high as the regular season approaches.
“We’ve got to score touchdowns instead of field goals to win. We understand that,” Sanchez said. “We’re steadily improving and, hopefully, we’ll make a big jump for that first game.”