An Unwinnable Game For The New York Jets?
By Craig Hoffman
Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets won a home game against a pretty bad Oakland team but a win is a win in the NFL. This week the task gets a lot more difficult as they travel to North Carolina to play the 9-4 Panthers. Because of a variety of factors that I will go into below most have written this off as a lopsided loss for the Jets and a nightmarish day for Geno Smith. I, myself, have looked at this matchup on paper and cringed. Is there an unwinnable game? In a word: No. On any given Sunday there is always a way to win and we will look at how the Jets can pull the monumental upset.
One of the main reasons for doubt amongst the fan base is how awful the team has been away from home. They are 1-5 on the road and have been outscored by 139 points in the process. The team has lost by an average of 23 points per game and have generally been awful on both sides of the ball but most obviously at quarterback. Smith has thrown for 300 less yards, roughly 50 less per game, on the road and has only generated 53 1st downs which is a bit under nine per game on average away from home.
Another reason would be the team they are playing. The Carolina Panthers are 9-4 and have been one of the best teams in the league this year. They have the strongest run defense in the league, taking over that spot from the Jets this week. The Panthers have an opportunistic secondary with the safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Lester combining for seven interceptions so they will jump routes. Cornerback Drayton Florence and Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly have three interceptions each and Captain Munnerlyn has one interception but is a very good cover corner. They have a prolific offense led by Cam Newton who is a dual threat passer with a big arm who likes to throw deep to Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr.. The Jets biggest achilles heel has been getting beaten on the deep ball so this is not a favorable matchup. Antonio Cromartie might not play so either Ellis Lankster or Darrin Walls will be covering Steve Smith and that is frightening.
So how can the Jets overcome all of that and get a win? The answer may lie in their only road win of the season in Atlanta against the Falcons, which is a tough place to play. The Jets are 3-0 vs. the NFC South with wins over Tampa Bay in week one and an upset win over the Saints to go along with that win in Atlanta. The common thread in those games were that they were in good weather, the offense performed well and there was a well-executed creative game plan. According to the Weather Channel’s forecast it will be 55 degrees at game time with a slight breeze so weather should not be a factor.
Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets free safety Antonio Allen (39) blocks a punt by Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King (7) and returns it for a touchdown in the first half during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets offense performed well last week against Oakland partly because they were healthy for the most part for the first time since Week 4. The real x-factor has been Jeremy Kerley, the Jets are 6-3 with him and 0-4 without him. The Jets need to throw the ball early in the game using roll-outs with run/pass options to get Smith comfortable and confident and after the Panthers are loosened up then pound Chris Ivory at them. The Jets need to score early because they play best from the lead and Smith tends to press when they are losing and tries to make plays that aren’t there causing turnovers.
The defensive line needs to rebound and both defend the run as well as generate a quick pass rush. Newton was sacked five times last week mostly when his first read wasn’t there and pressure came quickly. The knock on Cam Newton has been he gets frustrated when things don’t go his way and his play degrades, so early stops with creative, confusing defenses are a necessity. The defense must stop DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert who are both dual threats running and receiving out of the backfield. Tolbert is an excellent short yardage back. Maybe without an injured Cromartie in the lineup the secondary will be able to come together with all healthy bodies and put forth better results.
This will be an extremely difficult game which no one expects them to win. It will be a test of the growth and maturity of Geno Smith and the rest of the developing players on the roster. It is also a chance for Rex Ryan to stop all the talk of his job status. This team plays best when it has nothing to lose and nobody believes in them. This is a game I can see them winning or losing by 40 points. It is not unwinnable though, no game ever is.