The Jets are back home following their bye week and a bad loss against Ryan Fitzpatrick in Tampa Bay. They come back to MetLife to take on the 7-3 Carolina Panthers, who have look like they’ve started to figure things out. I take a look at each position matchup in todays game.
Love him or hate him, Cam Newton is getting back to being the Cam Newton of old. While his stats don’t put him in that elite category (14 TD’s to 11 INT’s), he’s the most versatile quarterback in the NFL. He has one of the strongest arms in the league and couples that with a running style of a running back. He’s big, he’s very strong and he’s difficult to tackle. The Jets are historically bad playing against quarterbacks this versatile so we’ll see how this collection of guys does today.
Josh McCown on paper has had a good season so far. When you watch the tape you see his completion percentage is masqueraded by short throws, not throwing the ball away and instead taking dumb sacks and throwing balls four yards short of the first down. It’s pretty to look at on paper but in terms of winning football games? It hurts you more than it helps. McCown is going to need to make throws downfield against the third ranked pass defense if the Jets have any hope at pulling the upset.
Running Back: Panthers
The Panthers slightly get the edge at running back. Jonathan Stewart is a non factor in the run game so it’s mainly the Christian McCaffrey show in Carolina. McCaffrey is a shifty back who can hurt you running the ball, catching the ball and in the open field. The Panthers were even trying him out at wide receiver this week. Carolina is finally figuring out how to use him and it’s paid dividends for their offense.
Matt Forte is questionable to play which means we might get the Bilal Powell-Elijah McGuire tandem against the NFL’s third ranked run defense. The Jets offensive line hasn’t been doing these guys any favors but neither has John Morton. The Jets need to have good run blocking and it can’t be just running it up the middle. Carolina has a stellar defensive line and even better linebackers that sniff plays out. Morton is going to have his work cut out for him this game.
Wide Receivers: Push
Neither team has an advantage in this area. Outside of Devin Funchess for Carolina and Robby Anderson for the Jets, there just isn’t that much production coming from other wide receivers. Carolina’s second leading wide out is in Buffalo and their running back leads the team in receptions. Jermaine Kearse is the second leading receiver on the Jets and that’s really it for New York. If I have to give and a slight edge, I’ll give it to Carolina but not by much and it’s really only because they actually have a core group of receivers that actually get the ball thrown to them that the Jets do not have.
Tight End: Jets
Austin Seferian-Jenkins should have had a touchdown in the each of the last two games if it weren’t for a terrible offensive pass interference call against Buffalo and a throw that was too low against Tampa Bay. I’ve been saying it for weeks now but the Jets need to start targeting him more downfield to better utilize him. Get him down the seam and get him in the open field. Eric Tomlinson is a good blocker and can get you some catches as well.
We don’t know how many snaps Greg Olsen is going to play. He’s been out since he broke his foot in Week 2 against the Bills. If Olsen is healthy? He’s Newtons favorite target and automatically makes this group better. But we don’t know the workload Olsen is going to get today. Ed Dickson has filled in fine for him in his absence but he’s not even a fourth of what Olsen brings to the table.
Offensive Line: Panthers
Over the last three games, Cam Newton has only been sacked one time. He’s thrown five touchdowns to one interception in that span as well. The Panthers offensive line has picked up their play lately and it’s shown up in the win column for the team. Newton struggles under pressure and most of his turnovers have come on third down. The Panthers increased play on the offensive line has resulted in better play from Newton. They’ll have a relatively easy day if they have to face the type of Jets defensive line play that we’ve seen all season.
Last game against Tampa Bay, Josh McCown took 14 hits. That’s against a lesser defense that the Panthers as well. The Jets offensive line has struggled through a majority of the season. Brian Winters is a walking holding penalty, James Carpenter has regressed and Wes Johnson might be the worst center in all of football. They now have to go up against a Panthers team that is tied for fifth in the league with 29 sacks. Good luck.
Defensive Line: Panthers
Julius Peppers is on the short list of players that will seemingly play football until their bodies are six feet under. Peppers has 7.5 sacks this season and his edge rushing partner Mario Addison has 6.5 sacks himself. Kawann Short has added 4.0 of his own. They get after the quarterback and can stop the run. After watching what Tampa Bay did to this Jets offensive line, Carolina should be foaming at the mouth.
Leonard Willams has played noticeably better in recent weeks while Mo Wilkerson has gone back to his rightful place on the milk carton. Kony Ealy might be looking at a revenge game this year and if there’s any Jets defensive lineman to do it, it would be him. He’s been the Jets best linemen all year long.
Luke Kuechly. Thomas Davis, SR. Shaq Thompson. That’s a murderers row. Kuechly is the best linebacker in football. You routinely see him call out the offensive plays before they happen, he’s like a missile going after the ball and can even drop back in coverage and still be reliable. Thomas Davis could have his arm amputated and still be out on the field playing. Even at the young age of 34 he’s still a very good linebacker. Shaq Thompson is one of the best up and coming linebackers in the NFL. He can do everything from rushing the passer to stopping the run to even covering slot receivers one on one. The Panthers have the most talented linebacking unit in the whole NFL.
Darron Lee. Demario Davis. Jordan Jenkins. Not quite a murderers row. They are going to have their hands full trying to contain Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey. This is essentially a game where the Panthers’ strength on offense is the Jets linebackers’ weakness. It could be very ugly for this group today.
This is the part of the defense that’s going to have to win the Jets the game. Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye need to continue their good play and limit Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. Adams is going to have play up at the line as well to limit McCaffrey. On the outside, Morris Claiborne is a shut down corner when he’s healthy. He barely played against Tampa Bay and with the bye week, he should be good to go. Darryl Roberts got his first interception last game against Tampa Bay. We need to see more turnovers today from this group.
The Panthers biggest weakness on defense is their secondary. James Bradberry and Kurt Coleman are good at corner and safety respectively but the rest of the group is just a bunch of pieces thrown in there. Captain Munnerlyn is out with an illness today that depletes this secondary even more. If the Jets offensive line can hold up, Josh McCown is going to have to take deep shots (looking at you Robby Anderson).
Special Teams: Panthers
The Panthers have a the big play potential of Christian McCaffrey in the return game. The Jets have no real threat in that aspect. Graham Gano has only missed one field goal this season to Chandler Catanzaro’s four.
John Morton delivered a stinker of a game against a bad Tampa Bay defense last time out. Todd Bowles didn’t have his players ready to play in what was a very winnable game. The Panthers have figured out how to use McCaffrey correctly and Riverboat Ron Rivera is known for taking gambles that Todd Bowles can only dream about.
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