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With three straight wins against struggling opponents, the 7-6 Jets come back to the Swamp this Sunday to face a once playoff bound team now fighting for its life as well, the 6-7 Atlanta Falcons. Losing starting QB Matt Ryan and one of the NFL’s top RBs Michael Turner to injury has not helped. Still, the Falcons have other weapons, can still put up points, and have played some good teams tough. The Jets, once 3-0, will have to prove that their recent turnaround has been about THEM and about simply enjoying the weakest part of their schedule.
The big question in Jet camp is, will QB Mark Sanchez be playing? Barring any set backs, the NY Post reports that yes, Sanchez will return. It’s a huge game for Gang Green in 2009. A win puts the Jets at 8-6 and perhaps ahead of a few of the four teams that remain tied for the last playoff spot in the AFC. The Jets won’t however, risk the future of the Sanchise. The coaches will ask Sanchez for an accurate perosanl report on his progress since spraining the MCL in the left knee weeks back. Head coach Rex Ryan said. “He knows how important this game is to us. He knows that his safety is important to us. I think he’ll definitely be honest with us. He always has been.”
We all know the story that led to this by now right? The Jets brought in Yankee skipper Joe Girardi to teach the rookie how to slide. Days later, the rookie then went on instinct instead, falling head first in Toronto to gain a first down only to injure his other knee for the second straight time in two games. Sanchez didn’t travel to Tampa the following week where backup Kellen Clemens threw erratically yet managed to not turn the ball over; a staple for the Jet game plan in 2009. Ground and pound, no interceptions, stifle THEIR offense with a smothering playmaking defense.
This strategy got the Jets off to a great start. Then Sanchez became interception happy as the Jets plummeted to 4-6. Out came the color coded wristband warning while reminding Sanchez of high risk throws at the wrong time. The interceptions decreased. The injury against the Bills though, left the Jets without their signal caller temporarily. From the looks of Clemens’ performance against the horrid Bucs, the Jets will welcome back Sanchez with open arms. Atlanta does have the 29th ranked pass defense but is Clemens the guy who can expose that? From the looks of last week the answer is no.
The Jets will come into the game with the leagues top rushing offense in yards gained and top defense in yards allowed. Stats that certainly were bolstered over the past three weeks against sub par clubs . Carolina’s star RB Deangelo Williams was not at full speed during the Jet win. Buffalo backup turned starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick struck little fear while the Bills rushing D was ranked last in the NFL. Then came 1-11 Tampa Bay. Wins are win though and the Jets avoided three trap games, a feat in itself for a franchise that too often, gets trapped.
RB Thomas Jones, 4th in the league rushing at 1167 yards, is having an outstanding year. Jones will be called upon again to set the tone. For rookie RB Shonn Greene ball security issue has become a problem for offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer. Shotty would probably would love to integrate the big play Greene into the gameplan even more. Greene’s yards per carry numbers have been solid each week (6-41 yds last week). . A team like the Jets, that is foundated on defense and no turnovers though, can’t give the keys away to the castle to a guy who is holding them loosely like Greene has been. As for quarterback, if the reigns are handed over to Clemens again, he’ll have to be better than he was last wee when he went 11-23 for a mere 111 yards. This while missing some very makable completions. The Jets feel though, that Clemens did what was asked of him “We have confidence in Kellen, I thought he managed the game exactly how we needed it,” Rex Ryan said.
Last week the Jets held the Bucs to zero first downs in the first half. Tampa was 0-14 on the day on third down. Darelle Revis once again shut down a top wideout, holding Antonio Bryant to just 22 yards. Falcons backup QB Chris Redman did not struggle last Sunday the way Bucs QB Josh Freeman did, in throwing for only 83 yards. Redman was 23-34 303 yds in last weeks loss to the Saints. Future hall of fame TE Tony Gonzalez (788 yds 5TDs) and WR Roddy White (915 yds 8 TDs) are a Falcon pair, who pose big threats in the passing game. The Jets will benefit however, if Turner remains sidelined. RBs Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling though have combined for an average of 3.7 yards per carry, a far cry from Michael Turner’s 4.9 a carry. Turner suffered a high ankle sprain and has missed two straight games. His status is day to day. Ryan suffered turf toe weeks back as well and is also day to day.
At the start of the season Atlanta was looking to grow from their 2008 playoff appearance in QB Ryan’s rookie season. The addition of Gonzalez was thought to have been a key addition for a franchise with serious hopes of a deep postseason run in 2009. Once at 4-2 now at 6-7, the Falcons, like the Jets are still alive but need help and can’t afford another loss.
For the Jets, it will get harder after Atlanta.The undefeated Colts and first place Bengals are the final two opponents on the schedule. Or maybe not. The Colts could be resting starters by then. The Bengals may be doing the same should they clinch the AFC North by then. Cincinnati will also be dealing with the sad loss of WR Chris Henry, who died this morning after falling out of a pickup truck during a domestic dispute. The Jet Report sends out it’s condolences to the Henry family and the Bengals franchise. It will be a sad weekend for the entire league because of the Henry situation. Nonetheless, the games will go on. For the Jets, Sunday has become yet another win or else scenario.
THREE KEYS TO THE ATLANTA GAME
JET DEFENSE FORCING TURNOVERS: If Clemens is back the Jets will DEFINITELY need some short fields. Sanchez won’t be at 100 percent if he does return, so let’s hope those Revis and Kerry Rhodes interceptions keep coming. Three turnovers will go a long way for Gang Green Sunday.
THROW IT SMART, DON’T THROW SCARED: Clemens or Sanchez need to keep with the color coded wrist band and throw it smart but throw it effectively. Being conservative doesn’t mean playing scared. Recently it seems as though both Jet QBs are passing while hoping NOT to get picked off. This pair needs to hit open guys. Leaving convertable plays on the field is not playing it safe. Jet passing yards need to come up as do the completion rates. We want over 50 percent completed and at least 175 to 200 yards in the air. That will seal the deal in a game the Jets have control of.
WATCH WOODHEAD: Danny Woodhead is getting more involved. Did you see the third down grab last week? Tough catch, nice run too. The Wayne Chrebet meets Wes Welker type rookie is a great asset to team with a conservative air attack. On a cold day, this guy could lineup in the slot or backfield. Look for him to move the chains or make a big play on Sunday as the Jets look to increase his role in December.
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