Sunday, December 16, 2012
W2W4: Jets at Titans
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Send in the next tomato can.
The Jets, trying to continue their desperate, late-season rally, meet their third consecutive last-place opponent Monday night in Nashville. This time, it's the Titans (4-9), who have dropped three straight to put themselves on the brink of their second double digit-loss season in three years.
For the Jets (6-7), hoping to reach .500 for the first time since Week 6, it's win or start planning for 2013. A loss would mathematically eliminate them from playoff contention. If the Jets win their third straight, they'd maintain a pulse into Week 16.
Kickoff is 8:30 p.m. at LP Field. What to watch for:
1. Mistake-prone QBs: So you think Mark Sanchez has a turnover problem? The Titans' Jake Locker has him beat in that department. The second-year QB has nine turnovers in the past three games -- seven interceptions and two fumbles. That's three more than Sanchez in the same span.
Mistakes notwithstanding, Locker can be dangerous because he does two things well: He can escape pressure (9.9 yards per scramble) and he can throw the deep ball (league-high 48.3 completion percentage on passes of 20+ yards). His most dangerous target is former Rutgers star Kenny Britt, who had a season-high 143 yards last week. The Jets believe they can make Locker panic by shutting down his first read. Chances are, the team with the fewest QB mistakes will win.
2. Braylon 2.0: Braylon Edwards has been slowed by an old hamstring injury, but the newly-acquired wide receiver is expected to make his 2012 debut for the Jets. In his first stint with the Jets, Edwards had a penchant for playing well in prime time. In his 2009 debut, in Week 5, he caught five passes for 64 yards and a TD against the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Then, like now, he had only a few days to familiarize himself with the offense.
Edwards could be used in three-receiver sets with Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens. Sanchez has a built-in comfort level with Edwards, who could be useful in the red zone because of his size. The question is, will his balky hammy hold up an entire game?
3. Run D vs. CJ: Titans RB Chris Johnson reached the 1,000-yard mark for the fifth straight year, but this hasn't been a vintage year. He has been slowed by a sore ankle and upheaval on the offensive line, which has changed four starters since camp. The only original starter is LT Michael Roos. The weak link is C Kevin Matthews, who had three holding penalties two weeks ago. Don't be surprised if the Jets put DE Muhammad Wilkerson on Matthews in certain fronts.
Johnson was held to 51 and 44 yards in the last two games, but he remains a home-run threat because of his speed. He needs space to run because he's not the type of back to break tackles. The Titans are last in the league in rushing yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Conversely, Johnson leads the AFC in yards before contact. Get the picture?
4. Kids R Them: The Titans are very young on defense, especially at linebacker -- two second-year players (Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy) and rookie Zach Brown. They're fast and aggressive, but that means they're vulnerable to misdirection runs, counters and play-action passes.
The Jets have done a nice job in recent weeks with counters and misdirection plays, especially the wind-back run. You also could see a throwback screen. The goal, of course, is to exploit over-pursuit. One injury to watch: McCarthy, who calls the defensive signals, is out with a concussion.
5. Beware, a McCourty is lurking: Jason McCourty starts at cornerback for the Titans. His twin brother, Patriots CB Devin McCourty, already has inflicted plenty of misery into the Jets' season. He scored on a 104-yard kickoff return and, in the Thanksgiving night debacle, he set up a TD by forcing a fumble on a kickoff return by Joe McKnight. The ball flew into the air and landed softly in the hands of Julian Edelman, who returned it for a score. Not surprisingly, Jason said he called his twin bro' this week to pick his brain for some intel on the Jets.
6. Return of the 'Cat? Rex Ryan made a big deal out of Tim Tebow's supposedly improved physical condition, suggesting that Tebow -- a spectator the last three games because of fractured ribs -- could be back in his old role, whatever that is. We'll believe it when we see it.