A few match-up thoughts on the New York Jets week 15 match-up against the heavily favored Carolina Panthers, which is a do or die game for the team’s small playoff chances.
1. Knocking off a mediocre Oakland Raiders team at home hasn’t changed my opinion about Rex Ryan’s future with this team. A win over a 12 point favorite on the road, that would keep the team’s small playoff chances alive? Now there is a step in the right direction. This upset would be more impressive than beating the Saints at MetLife, who are a different team away from the Dome or knocking off New England at MetLife as well. This is a physical team, playing in their building who will be locked in after being embarrassed in prime-time last week.
2. The Jets can’t get away with attempting to hide Geno Smith this week. Carolina has the league’s best run defense and an unbelievably stout front seven. Despite Smith’s struggles, the Jets would be better off looking to spread Carolina out and mixing in no huddle, like they did last week versus Oakland. Spread the field with Jeremy Kerley, Santonio Holmes, Kellen Winslow Jr and David Nelson, give Geno simple reads that will allow him to get the ball out of his hands quickly and hope to negate some of Carolina’s strength upfront. Also, the Jets shouldn’t be shy about utilizing Geno outside of the pocket and in the read option, let him make some plays with his feet and cut the field in half with the rollouts.
There is no point in playing timid. We saw how that worked out in Baltimore. Go into this game swinging and looking to make big plays. If the Jets can find a way to get an early lead, instead of putting themselves in an early hole like they have repeatedly on the road, it will make a world of difference. Carolina can be beat in the secondary and it is primarily on Kerley and Winslow (since Holmes is clearly less than 100%) to beat their coverage and create a few chunk gains.
3. Defensively, I’m curious to see if Rex Ryan will mix things up and go zone/coverage heavy against Cam Newton. We’ve seen him work a more conservative game plan successfully at times in the past. Instead of manning up with the Jets struggling corners and safeties and sending the house at Newton, when he can burn you with his legs…why not drop 6, 7, or 8 into coverage, keep Newton in the pocket and see if he tries to force the issue and walks into a few turnovers? The Panthers have a dangerous running game and maybe you end up sacrificing some yards there but make the Panthers string together long drives to get points instead of getting hurt with the big play. Perhaps, we will see more three safety looks this week as well, to help shadow Newton and contain tight end Greg Olsen.
4. If you have a fake punt, surprise onside kick, trick play on offense or surprise personnel group on defense…this is the week to break it out.
5. If the Jets somehow win this game, they are going to be very relevant in the AFC wild-card race over the final two weeks (look at Baltimore and Miami’s schedule if you think not). If Rex Ryan wants to cement his return, go out and get this upset and then make sure your team avoids the inevitable let down the following week against Cleveland at home. Remember, the Jets record after a win is 1-11 in their last 12 attempts.