New York Jets: The Blueprint For Stopping New England

What is it going to take for the New York Jets defense to keep rolling against the suddenly fading Patriots offense?

We have learned the past two weeks that the New England Patriots offense is far from unstoppable. Pittsburgh and the Giants have both effectively flummoxed Tom Brady in a similar way the New York Jets did in the playoffs last year. In their earlier meeting this season, the Jets defense did some good things but overall had a weak showing, particularly against the run. Since the loss, the unit has steadily improved and appeared to hit their stride last Sunday in Buffalo.

What is it going to take for the defense to continue rolling this week against the suddenly fading Patriots?

The Jets don’t have the personnel to rush the passer the same way Pittsburgh and the Giants do. However, they do have a better secondary which will allow them to send extra blitzers to compensate for their lack of elite pass rushers. The formula to slowing down New England’s offense is to beat up their wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and keep their tight ends double teamed as frequently as possible. New England can run the ball so the Jets can’t overreact to the degree they did earlier in the season to stopping the pass. They spent a good portion of that game with 6 to 8 defensive backs on the field, which allowed BenJarvus-Green Ellis to have a career day.

As a defense, the Jets spend a higher than usual amount of time in the nickel. It makes sense to have 5 or 6 defensive backs on the field for big chunks of the game, especially with how well Kyle Wilson has been playing and with their inconsistencies in replacing Bryan Thomas at outside linebacker. However, Rex Ryan needs to have confidence in his unit’s ability to stop the pass while still keeping enough defensive lineman and linebackers on the field to keep the run in check.

The Jets will receive a nice boost by getting Mike DeVito back in the line-up, who is a big part of their run defense. In DeVito’s absence, the rest of the Jets defensive line rotation has received experience and steadily began to improve. Muhammad Wilkerson is quietly putting together a very good rookie year and Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Martin Tevaseu are all solid rotation players. The defensive line, David Harris, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace need to set the edge and not let the thoroughly average running back combination of Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead eat up clock.

In the secondary, the Jets are built to play an aggressive man to man style against New England’s wide receivers. Darrelle Revis is Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie has been much better as of late and Kyle Wilson is playing the best football of his career. Wes Welker hurt the Jets on one play in their previous meeting thanks to Eric Smith getting over the top late. Look for more Brodney Pool in passing situations, and for him along with the rest of the Jets safeties to take turns doubling Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Tom Brady isn’t standing behind an elite offensive line anymore and we know that if you get him uncomfortable in the pocket, his accuracy begins to drop substantially. The Jets sacked him 4 times earlier this season, Pittsburgh sacked him 3 times, and the Giants brought him down twice but were constantly putting pressure in his face, forcing him into three turnovers.

It seems that the Jets are meeting New England at the perfect time. The Patriots are known for their offense, which is trending downward. The Jets are known for their defense, which is trending upward. New England has to come into the Jets stadium in prime-time in what should be an electric atmosphere. There are no excuses, as Rex Ryan has a chance to show the whole country his prized defense is back, in a big way.

I’m Coming Home: Halfway Through NFL Season (NFC)

Justin breaks down the NFC at the mid-point of the season. Who are the real contenders?

If the playoffs started today, the Bengals would lead the AFC in wins and get a home playoff game. Take a few moments to breathe, loosen your tie, and try and remember that there are 4 divisional games remaining for the Bengals, 2 of which are against the Ravens, and 2 of which are against the Steelers. The Bengals will win none of those games, if not for only the fact that both the Ravens and Steelers playoff chances hinge on divisional wins against the shakiest team in the hardest division of the AFC.

Enough hating on the Bengals….for now.

Let’s look at the playoff picture in its entirety, starting with the NFC. The Falcons notoriously took Julio Jones in the first round and gave up two draft picks. That will come to be one of their best draft moves for the next 5 years. While the Falcons are currently ranked as the 7th best team against the run, that will probably bump up to the 15th by the end of the season. The Falcons defense has two first round picks at defensive line, one at linebacker and one at defensive back.
There is a formula to the Falcons that makes it one of the potentially greatest offenses in the league. They have their big power running back with Turner, their safety valve in Tony Gonzalez, and two of the top 15 receivers in the NFL. Roddy White and Julio Jones will be huge threats in the second half of the year, especially anywhere indoors.

The problem for a defense facing the Falcons in the second half of the year is that they understand how to roll their three headed dye with precision. If you get double coverage on either receiver, check down to Gonzalez, if Gonzalez has double coverage, find one of three on the outside, and if the defense drops 2 deep and man coverage on both receivers, run it up the middle. Packers have more explosive receivers, Bears have a better running back, but no one has a tight end as good as Gonzalez unless you count Hernandez and Gronkowski for the Patriots as one unit.

The only issue I have with the Falcons is the fact that they have only one quality win this year. Philly? No Vick. Colts? No Manning. Detroit? My feelings on Detroit are mixed, and I think they have a few more losses throughout the year as people start to pick up on how to stop Calvin Johnson and confuse a still relatively inexperienced Matthew Stafford.

Moving on. As I described previously, I have mixed feelings on the Lions. They have flash on defensive line and at receiver, but I don’t think they have enough experience to dig themselves out of a hole against a playoff team when the weather gets cold and Matthew Stafford is asked to find guys that aren’t Calvin Johnson. Next year? Sure, Lions easy playoff team. This year, I still can’t see them getting out of the first round of the playoffs, even though they have three first round picks on their defensive line and the 6th ranked pass defense halfway through the season.

The Saints. Next to Green Bay, the Saints have the best offense in the league. In fact, I would call the Saints the Big Brother to the Packers, if only because of experience in the playoffs. Are they a better overall offense? That depends on if you consider the running game as important as the passing game. The Saints easily have the best tandem at running back in the NFC. Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram is the best 1-2 potential, and there is simply no argument against the potential of Mark Ingram as a power running back in the second half of the season if he can stay healthy.

The Giants, despite the strange tendencies of their offense to be able to run the ball, pass the ball, and then not be able to do those things in the same game, still have the best defensive line/linebacking core in the NFC. This despite the fact that Goff and Sintim are on IR for the rest of the season. If they can get a shutdown corner with Prince Amukamara, then the Giants defense will be able to get nearly as insane as the Jets do in terms of blitz variety and amount of guys they can send to rush the passer.

Someone completely out of their mind may assume the 49ers are the second best team in the NFC. That sort of proclamation can easily be countered by looking at the number of quality wins they have. Philly? Didn’t have their team together yet. Lions? A team so up and down you never know what you’re gonna get. They will face the Giants, Ravens and Steelers, and most likely lose 2 out of 3 games there. Those defenses will show everyone that they are at least a 4 loss team.

Where will I give the 49ers credit? For finally utilizing the pieces that should have been walking all over the NFC West for the past 3 years. Mike Singletary was a great player. He was a below average coach and the turnaround by Harbaugh is most likely split credit between the coach and the division.

Look at what they’ve had. Justin Smith is a 2 time Pro Bowler. Patrick Willis is a 4 time Pro Bowler who will be the only linebacker to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ray Lewis. Vernon Davis averages 12.7 a catch and has over 29 receiving touchdowns as a tight end. They had pieces, and the fact that the 49ers took a defensive back in the third round and the sixth round while grabbing another linebacker in the first round makes it clear that Jim Harbaugh is going to have the perfect mix of youth and experience on defense. The fact that they did not take a quarterback in the first round may have been the best decision by the front office in years.

The Green Bay Packers have caught that Patriots bug of luck mixed with insanely efficient quarterback play. Cullen Jenkins? Gone. Nick Barnett? Gone. Nick Collins? Out on injured reserve. They get Jermichael Finley back, resurrect the youth of Donald Driver, and sling it to Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Greg Jennings in no particular order. They’ve got their future linebacker tandem of Hawk and Matthews for another 7 years and the secondary is stacked with young value talent. The only thing more terrifying than this year’s Packers is what next years Packer’s will look like when Randall Cobb finds his role at receiver and their two tight end draft picks (5th and 7th round) start to see more playing time.

By the end of the season, look for the 49ers to win their division easily, sneak in at 11-5, and lose at home to either the Lions or the Saints. The one thing I think can happen is the rematch of Falcons/Packers in the divisional round. If the Giants play the Packers I think they’ll be able to get to Aaron Rodgers, but only for a half. He will exploit the middle of the field and keep the pass defense on their toes. The Packers are much harder to scheme for than the Patriots. There has been a torch passed, whether people are willing to admit it or not.

TOJ Mid-Season NFL Power Rankings

TOJ with his mid-season NFL Power Rankings. How much do you disagree?

Your mid-season NFL Power Rankings from TOJ, but first a necessary and brief rant

It is hard to mentally fathom the crimes committed by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. It is almost harder to fathom the protection he received from the infrastructure of the University he coached at. It does appear now that Joe Paterno won’t be back next year and he shouldn’t be. It is time to clean house. Clear the school and every last shred of any person who didn’t do everything in their power to report the crimes they were aware of. This situation is nothing short of sickening and to watch an institution placed over the safety of children is a disgrace. Hang your head in shame Happy Valley, your reputation will forever be tarnished.

1. Green Bay Packers (8-0) – It is hard to think that they don’t have a real shot of going 16-0.

2. San Francisco 49ers (7-1) – They should have that division clinched any day now.

3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2) – It was huge for this franchise to get a sweep of Pittsburgh.

4. New York Giants (6-2) – Pretty amazing what they have done considering their injuries.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) – They may have to go on the road in the playoffs this year.

6. New Orleans (6-3) – Some inconsistencies but they are hard to beat when they are on point.

7. New York Jets (5-3) – If their defense plays like that, they could beat anybody.

8. Detroit Lions (6-2) – Now in battle with Chicago for second place in the NFC North.

9. Houston Texans (6-3) – They should roll the rest of the way in the AFC South.

10. New England Patriots (5-3) – Incredible how awful their defense has become.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) – I’m not sold yet.

12. Chicago Bears (5-3) – Gutsy win over Philly will keep them very relevant for second half of season.

13. Atlanta Falcons (5-3) – A chance to assert themselves as serious contenders this week against New Orleans.

14. Dallas Cowboys (4-4) – A soft schedule will give them a shot to hang with the Giants.

15. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – The early season hype seems like a long time ago.

16. Tampa Bay Bucs (4-4) – The “Youngry” Bucs haven’t lived up to expectations this year.

17. Tennessee Titans (4-4) – They have 8-8 written all over them.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – Playoffs looking like a long shot after killer loss to Chicago.

19. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – The awfulness of their division keeps them a contender.

20. Oakland Raiders (4-4) – See above.

21. Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) – See above.

22. Denver Broncos (3-5) – See above.

23. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – They will be fun to watch the rest of the year.

24. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) – Will be competitive with Christian Ponder under center.

25. Cleveland Browns (3-5) – How bad is that offense?

26. Washington Redskins (3-5) – See above.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – See above.

28. Miami Dolphins (1-7) – Glad they don’t suck enough for Luck.

29. Seattle Seahawks (2-6) – Hey, they are in second place in their division.

30. Arizona Cardinals (2-6) – How much did they pay Kevin Kolb?

31. St. Louis Rams (1-7) – Frustrating step back after last year.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-8) – It is hard to think that they don’t have a real shot of going 0-16.