For the first time since week five of the 2012 season, the New York Jets (1-1) will host a Monday night game when the Chicago Bears (1-1) travel to MetLife stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN.
Last week, the Jets blew a 21-3 first half lead to the Packers while the Bears came back in impressive fashion on the road in San Francisco to win 28-20.
A lot has been made of the Jets performance last week. As many players and fans noted, it can be maddening to see how good and bad the Jets can be in one game. The reality of the situation is what was perceived as weaknesses of the Jets going into the season, namely the secondary and wide receiver depth, are real problems. Furthermore, the Jets continue to play undisciplined football and seemed to lose sight of their game plan as last week’s game progressed.
The extra day of preparation could prove to be big for the Jets. WR Eric Decker and CB Dee Millinier are both hampered by injuries. Decker pulled his hamstring in the third quarter of last week’s game, which proved costly for the offense. Not only is Decker the best receiver the Jets have, he has already proved to be a reliable target for Geno Smith and is one of the best deep ball threats in the league.
Decker has not practiced this week but head coach Rex Ryan will not rule him out. According to Ryan, Decker does not need to practice for him to play Monday. With that being said, if Decker does not play, I hope it doesn’t drastically alter the game plan.
It is certainly important for the Jets to establish the run. They struggled to run against a Green Bay front seven that doesn’t strike much fear into anyone. Through two games, Chicago has yielded an average of 160 yards per game. The Jets should be able to run, and I hope they do establish a solid running game to keep an explosive Bears offense off the field, but the Jets sans Decker can still be creative through the air.
Using more packages with tight end Jace Amaro in the slot and Chris Johnson as a passing option has the potential to rack up yards after the catch. Jeremy Kerley will continue to do Jeremy Kerley things. The question becomes can anyone else step up? David Nelson was invisible for most of the Packers game.
The Jets also need more from Geno Smith. He started off on fire against the Packers and slowly faded. It’s obviously not all his fault; the play calling left more to be desired, the running game wasn’t there, and his most impressive throw of the game was taken away by a ghost timeout, but there was a stretch in the second half where he was simply missing throws. He has a tough task ahead with a Bears defense that has been impressive in stopping the pass. Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller is already showing a knack for finding the football.
The defense, much like the offense, was unstoppable early on last week. How impressive was the front seven? They were like a hungry pack of wolves getting after Aaron Rodgers. As the game wore on the pressure subsided, Rodgers started making throws, and the play overall diminished It would probably be wise for the Jets to not get into fights that results in their best player getting kicked out the game this week too.
The status of Dee Milliner is also up in the air. He played last week but did not look good and also admitted his ankle tightened up on him during the game. If he can’t play, Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls will continue to be the starters. Allen had a rough go of things against Jordy Nelson but I’m not too down on him. Rodgers-Nelson is one of the best QB-WR duos in the league.
The Jets secondary, no matter who is playing, will have to be on top of their game. Jay Cutler is a very good quarterback playing in a great offensive system with two elite wide receivers. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery might be the best duo of wide receivers in the league. Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) are hobbling around with injuries but did play last week (at a very high level) and I would be surprised if either missed Monday’s game.
Scheming for that offense will be interesting. The Bears like to move the ball vertically but are very effective with using running back Matt Forte in the flats and with screens. Rookie safety Calvin Pryor had a nice “welcome to the NFL” game last week, missing a few tackles and struggling as the single high safety in a cover-1 defense. I’m sure Rex will provide him with some more help.
The Jets have played well at home. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the Jets to win. Cutler is a good quarterback but is not Aaron Rodgers. Establishing the run and limiting the explosive plays should lead the Jets to victory.