By Glenn Naughton
The 1-2 New York Jets will host the 2-1 Seattle Seahawks as they hope to avoid having their season go in to a 1-3 tailspin that will mean an uphill climb in the coming weeks if they have any playoff aspirations.
Here are some of the key match-ups to keep an eye on.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Legion of Boom: There’s no sugar-coating this one…Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off of the worst performance of his NFL career, and now prepares to take on one of the top defensive units in the NFL.
The “Legion of Boom” that is Seattle’s secondary has got to be chomping at the bit after watching Fitzpatrick throw six interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
Fitzpatrick will be without the injured Eric Decker while throwing to a struggling Brandon Marshall along with Quincy Enunwa and whatever combination of young receivers the Jets opt to go with. Facing an elite defense without a full arsenal is clearly not an ideal scenario, but it won’t matter who the Jets receivers are if Fitzpatrick is anywhere near as bad as he was last Sunday.
Jets safeties vs. Jimmy Graham: Jets fans had to be scratching their heads watching last week’s contest as Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was able to beat Jets safety Calvin Pryor one time after another in one-on-one match-ups.
Pryor was given a free pass by many fans for his struggles as a rookie as he was being used in coverage, a role for which he’s not well suited. Now, in year three, Todd Bowles and company decided to give Pryor a shot to cover one of the NFL’s top tight ends and the results weren’t pretty as Kelce piled up over 80 yards and a touchdown.
Now, facing another elite tight end in Jimmy Graham, who posted 100 yards last week, the Jets will surely take a different approach. Look for Gang Green to try to match up Marcus Gilchrist or Antonio Allen against Graham. Or, perhaps an appearance by rookie cornerback Juston Burris?
Jets interior defensive linemen vs. Germain Ifedi: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is expected to play with a brace on his knee which could impact his ability to run around and make plays. This put the onus on the Jets defensive line to get to apply consistent pressure. Germain Ifedi, Seattle’s first round draft choice has yet to play a down, but is expected to get his first pro start on Sunday.
The Jets would like nothing more than to give Ifedi a rude awakening in his first pro game with the multiple looks they can show up front, many of which will consist of a young dynamic lineman across from him. Be it Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson or Leonard Williams, Ifedi should have his hands full. Taking advantage of mismatches up front is the only thing that gives the Jets a chance to come out on top.
Inexperienced receivers and a struggling QB going against one of the top secondaries in the NFL make all the difference in this one. If the over/under on Fitzpatrick interceptions was 3, I’d be tempted to take the over. Barring an other-worldly performance from the defensive line that forces multiple turnovers and some big plays on special teams, the Jets fall to 1-3.