One of the things I look at going into every game is how each wide receiver is likely to fare against his lineup matchup.
For example, the Jets depth chart has Braylon Edwards listed as New York's flanker, so his matchup would be against Baltimore's left cornerback Chris Carr.
At some level, this would look like a mismatch. Carr has been with three teams in his six NFL seasons and has only ten starts to his credit.
Carr's metrics say otherwise. He allowed only 224 yards on thirty-seven pass attempts in 2009, for a yards per attempt (YPA) total of 5.6. That was tied for 15th best in the league among qualifying cornerbacks (twenty-five attempts necessary for qualifying).
As good as those totals are, there is a chance Baltimore will put newly acquired Josh Wilson at that position instead. Wilson's 2009 metrics weren't quite as good as Carr's (59 attempts, 432 yards, 7.3 YPA) but he does have twenty-four career starts to his credit, so Baltimore may see him as the better option.
As to whether it will make a difference who plays, consider this. When facing red-rated cornerbacks last year (red-rating meaning they allowed less than 7.0 YPA), Edwards gained only 6.1 YPA. When facing yellow-rated cornerbacks (YPA of 7-9 yards), Edwards tallied 8.5 YPA. If history is any indicator, the Jets should hope Baltimore puts Wilson opposite Edwards.
Baltimore seems a lot more certain with their right cornerback option, Fabian Washington, but the metrics say this is the side of the field they should be the most concerned about. Washington allowed a ridiculously high 11.2 YPA in 2009. To put that into perspective, know that only four cornerbacks gave up a higher YPA than Washington last year. That wasn't an anomaly, either, as Washington historically has had subpar metrics. Throw in the fact that he is coming off of an ACL injury and it should mean a lot of pass attempts, and more importantly completions, to Jerricho Cotchery. Look for a big game from the former starter.
KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, uses game film to track, tabulate and analyze nearly every measurable statistic in an NFL game. He is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider and has a Web site at thefootballscientist.com.