By Tyson Rauch
On Sunday the New York Jets (7-6), winners of three in a row, take on the Atlanta Falcons (6-7) at the Meadowlands (1pm EST). Both teams enter the game in contention for a playoff spot, knowing that a loss this weekend will eliminate any chance of postseason play. Lets take a look at how these two teams match-up.
Side note: The weather could play a major factor in this game as the forecast is calling for a cold, snowy day at the Meadowlands. If that forecast comes true, all bets are off in the passing game and this will be a pure smash mouth style of game where both teams will try to run the ball like crazy.
New York Jets Offense vs. Atlanta Falcons Defense
The Jets should get quarterback Mark Sanchez back behind center this week, now it is just a matter of how effective he will be. Sanchez relies heavily on his footwork and legs to move around the pocket, and if that mobility is limited by his knee injury, the passing game could struggle. In terms of the Jets offensive game plan, Atlanta’s defense is ranked 23rd against the run, which is just what the doctor ordered for the Jets #1 ranked ground attack. The Jets will look for Sanchez to manage the game while running backs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene move the chains on the ground.
In terms of the passing game, the Falcons are ranked 30th against the pass so their will be some opportunities through the air for Gang Green. Last week the Jets added some new packages for the explosive Danny Woodhead, that could open up plays down the field to Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery.
New York Jets Defense vs. Atlanta Falcons Offense
The Falcons offense has been sputtering due to injuries to quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner. As of this time both players have returned to practice on a limited basis and their status for the game on Sunday is listed as questionable. If Ryan is unable to play, Atlanta will look to veteran Chris Redman to lead the offense. Redman, who is 1-2 while leading the Atlanta offense this year, played well last week passing for over 300 yards against the New Orleans Saints.
Regardless of who is playing quarterback for Atlanta, they have two pro-bowlers as targets in tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Roddy White. The Jets should be able to contain both of these stars by putting Darrelle Revis on White and either a linebacker or Kerry Rhodes on Gonzalez.
As for the running game, if Turner is unable to play, the Falcons will more than likely look to Jason Snelling to handle the workload. The Jets #1 ranked defense should be able to control the line of scrimmage and shut down the Falcons 18th ranked running game.
Normally I do not go into the special teams too much but with the potential of very poor weather the kicking game could be huge in this game. The Jets Jay Feely has had an excellent season going 25/29 on field goal attempts. Punter Steve Weatherford has struggled at times and it will be interesting to see how he reacts in poor weather. As for the Falcons, Matt Bryant kicked for the Falcons last week but has never been known to be a reliable kicker. Punter Michael Koenen comes into the game with 43.5 yards average per kick.
It is hard to predict the game with the level of uncertainty with the injuries for both teams. Obviously if the key players (Sanchez,Turner,Ryan) play, the game could be very competitive. My thinking is that Sanchez will start and the Falcons will be without Turner. With that being said I think the Jets will come out very physical on both sides of the ball, inspired by a fired up home crowd. The Jets will pound the ball on offense, and look to be very aggressive on defense especially if there are poor weather conditions. It will be a close game in the fourth quarter with Gang Green’s defense making a huge play to end the game.
The Jets playoffs dream live on. 17-14 Jets.