This Monday, your New York Jets (2-2) will travel to the Georgia Dome to square off with the Atlanta Falcons (1-3) on Monday night football. The Falcons are a surprise for all the wrong reasons, losing as many games this year as they did in all of 2012. Part of this is the schedule, facing a murderers row of potential playoff teams in New Orleans, Miami, and New England.
I truly believe that a game preview should prepare you for all aspects of the game. So with that in mind, let’s break down this preview Jon Gruden style.
Let me tell you one thing about the Atlanta Falcons offense: they are loaded. This kid Matt Ryan? He’s a 6’4”, 220 pound golden armed kid with ice in his veins. I know the Falcons have lost a lot of close games this season, but believe me, Matt Ryan can win you a super bowl. He’s that good.
How can you not drool when looking at the weapons Ryan has to use at his dispense? He’s luckier than a dog with 14 bones in its mouth. It all starts with the ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez. He might be 37, but he’s still a kid to me. He’s so athletic and big you need LeBron James to cover him, especially in the red zone.
At receiver, Julio Jones has really established himself as one of the best receivers in the league. He’s a 6’4” stallion who’s going to give Antonio Cromartie fits. He’s so big and fast, you have to respect his ability to run past the defense and this opens up a lot for the offense. Roddy White will line up opposite of him and while he hasn’t been himself this year (due to a foot injury) he could do some serious damage to whoever lines up over him. What a consummate professional and warrior.
The weapons are nice but there are some things this potentially lethal offensive unit has to overcome. Pass protection, especially from the left and right tackles, has not been very good. With running back Steven Jackson out (and it seems unlikely he plays Monday), Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling both have to find more success running between the tackles. Let me tell you about this Rodgers kid; he can be dynamite. You have to make sure there’s always a linebacker on him because he’s as quick as lightning in space.
Outside of last week, the Jets defense has been outstanding on getting offenses off the field on third down. The Falcons have been one of the worst teams on third down because of their inability to pick up yards on first and second down. The Falcons are also 28th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on just seven of their 18 appearances. On top of all this, they’re only averaging slightly above nine points in the second half of games. That’s a formula to lose football games.
There are definitely some things to like about this Mike Nolan led defense. This front seven has been a hammer against the run, allowing only 93 yards per game, good for sixth in the league. Middle linebacker Akeem Dent is the Tom Brady of this defense, calling out plays and making tackles. The secondary is still a work in progress, spending their first two draft picks on cornerbacks. They’re allowing 301 yards per game in the air which is 26 in the NFL. This unit still has Asante Samuel who might be the best cornerback I’ve ever seen go after the ball. The man is a ball hawk.
The biggest problem I have with this Falcons defense is their pass rush. Where is it? There guys can be softer than teddy bears in passing situations and they’re not doing their secondary any favors. The Jets have a good offensive line and have held up well in pass protection, so let’s see if Atlanta dials up some blitz packages.
How To Win
This Geno Smith kid; I like him. He’s a very conscientious, high-character guy. I like that. However, he has to stop turning the ball over. He carries the ball around like a loaf of bread. That football is your child and you have to protect it with everything you have. He’s got his work cut out for him this week with Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill both likely out. It could be tough to get the run game going against this front seven but potentially having running back Mike Goodson back will add an element they haven’t had yet. If the Jets play an error free, penalty free game on the offensive side of the football they’ll have a chance. That’s a big if.
Winning the field position battle will be big too. The Jets average starting field position has been their own 22 yard line, dead last in the NFL. Rex Ryan has his defense playing extremely well, but they need to start forcing turnovers and helping out the offense a little.
This will be a classic battle between two teams who could both use a win. I’m looking forward to it.