The New York Jets are now on a two game losing after a magical three game winning streak. Unfortunately for Jets fans, they have the toughest strength of schedule to finish out the season and that starts Sunday when they return to MetLife to play the Atlanta Falcons. I take a look at the position comparisons between the two teams.
Matt Ryan certainly isn’t the quarterback we saw lead this team to the Super Bowl (and blow a 25 point lead. Those jokes suck and I won’t make them again). Maybe it’s because Steve Sarkisian is now the one calling the plays, maybe it’s because he’s just having a down year or maybe it’s a little bit both. Regardless he is still a far superior quarterback in Sunday’s matchup. The Falcons are desperate for a win and this might be a kitchen sink game for them. He’s going up against an already thin Jets secondary that got ripped to shreds by Matt Moore and will be without Buster Skrine.
Josh McCown has yet to put together a complete game this season. For a guy with as much experience as McCown, you’d think the boneheaded turnovers would be few and far between but it’s basically every week where we get a bad interception. He cas thrown he can put the Jets in a good position to win but we have yet to see him go out and win them a game.
Running Back: Falcons
Atlanta has a backfield that the Jets wish they could have. A two headed attack with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman where you can have very little drop off in production when Freeman comes out of the game. They have struggled against the AFC East this season however. Freeman has only averaged 66 yards in the last three games (all AFC East opponents). However he’s going up against a Jets defense that can only seem to stop the Dolphins running game this season. Freeman and Coleman are elusive and can catch out of the backfield as well. That’s a big problem for a Jets team that struggles defending those types of players.
The Jets looked like they started to realize how they should use their running backs last week. Bilal Powell had more carries than Matt Forte and Forte was used more as a third down back which was very beneficial for the Jets. The Falcons have a vulnerable run defense (16th in the league in yards allowed per game) and the Jets will have to look to utilize their game plan against Miami this week. I still take the Falcons backfield.
Wide Receiver: Falcons
Whenever you have a guy like Julio Jones to throw to, you instantly have the advantage. Forget the stats this season because Jones is still a top four or five receiver in the league. His catch radius is enormous and he’s one of, if not the, most physical receivers in the league (just ask Malcolm Butler). Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel are both very quick guys that are tough to cover. They complement the skillset of Jones very nicely. With the Jets down a cornerback in an already thin secondary, the Falcons shouldn’t have much difficulty.
I can’t imagine this going well for the Jets if they need to keep up with Atlanta. The Jets have a good group of wide receivers but they lack a true number one receiver. That’s okay when you’re playing a Browns team or a Miami or if you have a great quarterback. The Jets are not playing either of those teams and they lack a great quarterback.
Tight End: Jets
The one area on offense where the Jets have the advantage is tight end. Austin Hooper is no slouch and is a very prominent piece of the Falcons offense but Austin Seferian-Jenkins has arguably been a more integral part of the Jets offense. He has caught a touchdown in three straight games and has a 76.5 catch percentage with more targets than Hooper. The one thing I want to see from him this week and going forward is more down field routes. Hooper is great down the field and Seferian-Jenkins can do some damage downfield blocking and catching with his big frame.
Offensive Line: Falcons
Atlanta has a very good offensive line, anchored by their Pro Bowl center Alex Mack. The average the fourth most yards per carry running the ball (4.9 YPC). For comparison the Jets averaged the 11th most yards per carry (4.3) but that’s due to two long runs against the Jaguars. Atlanta has also allowed the eighth fewest sacks (11) and the ninth fewest QB hits (32). By comparison, the Jets have allowed the eighth most sacks (22) and the eighth most QB hits (43).
Defensive Line: Falcons
Leonard Williams and Mo Wilkerson played great for 75% of Week 6 against the Dolphins. The games are not won however for playing great for three quarters. They showed they can get pressure but they need to sustain that for four entire quarters in order to beat this Atlanta Falcons team. Matt Ryan will pick this secondary apart if he gets enough time, even in a down year. The Jets defensive line also can’t stop other teams not named the Miami Dolphins from running the ball.
Atlanta’s defensive line is not a murderers row of guys but they are better at run defense than the Jets. They can generate pressure against the Jets offensive line and stuff the run game. This creates a lot of problems for a Jets team that struggles to run the ball and McCown is a guy who holds the ball a little too long at times. I don’t expect them to be game changers but they have the advantage this year over the Jets.
Three words: Vic Beasley, Jr. He’s not on pace for the 15.5 sack season that he had last season but this guy is as dangerous as it gets as an edge rusher. The Jets don’t have Brandon Shell who has played good against elite edge rushers this season and Beasley is sure to be licking his chops at that. Deion Jones is a hybrid linebacker that can cover out of the back field and can cover tight ends. They have a very athletic group of linebackers that can do a lot of different things.
The Jets do not. Darron Lee has played stellar these last few games but he’s still a liability in coverage. Jordan Jenkins hasn’t done much of anything as an edge rusher and Demario Davis has good numbers but still gets beat consistently by tight ends and quick running backs. The Falcons have the advantage.
Jamal Adams has come back to Earth these past three games after that fast start. He’s gotten beat in coverage a lot more than he did to start the year while his running mate Marcus Maye has stepped up in a big way with two interceptions in the past three games. Morris Claiborne has stayed on the field and looks like a true number one corner. He’ll have his hands full against Julio Jones Sunday. The Jets secondary is very thin now without the walking penalty Buster Skrine, which could show later in the game.
The Falcons secondary is around the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed per game but has only given up nine touchdown passes all season. They’ve only forced two interceptions which is a little concerning but they’re going up against Josh McCown. Jets receivers aren’t guys who will out physical you at the line and that’s where Atlanta can take advantage. Robby Anderson is the only deep threat on the roster but he’s gotten his touchdowns on one on ones. Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal have the talent to limit those big plays.
Special Teams: Jets
The Jets have the better punter (which is a very weird thing to imagine) and the more accurate kicker in this game. Neither team has scored a special teams touchdown. The Jets are going to have to play the field position game to give themselves a chance and Lac Edwards gives them a great opportunity to do that.
What could have been. The Jets almost hired Dan Quinn before hiring Todd Bowles three seasons ago. Since that time, Dan Quinn has gone to a Super Bowl while Todd Bowles in year three is just starting to understand how to coach. Quinn has received his fair share of criticism but up against Bowles, I’ll take Quinn.
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