Game Preview: Jets (6-7) vs. Panthers (9-4)
Florham Park, NJ – The Jets ended their three game skid with a 37-27 victory last week against the Oakland Raiders. 37 points was a huge number for a team that had failed to hit that total in the previous three games combined. The biggest difference for the offense was the return of receiver Jeremy Kerley.
It also helped that the Jets were going up against an equally struggling team in the Raiders. This week the Jets won’t be as lucky. They’ll be on the road where they’ve gone 1-5, and play a Panthers team that looks like one of the best in the entire NFL. They’ll also be looking for back-to-back wins, which isn’t something the Jets have been too good at recently. They are 1-11 in their last twelve games following a win.
The Panthers won eight games in a row before losing 31-13 to the Saints in New Orleans last week. They might be the only team in the league with a better front seven than the Jets, and recently overtook the Jets as the top rushing defense in the league. They’re not too bad against the pass either. They come into the game ranked 5th in the league, thanks to a front four that’s dismantled offensive lines without the help of the blitz.
The Jets have yet to lose to an NFC opponent, though. They are 3-0 including a big victory over the Saints. As good as the Panthers defense has been, they’re weak in the secondary. If the offensive line can give Geno Smith time, the Jets might be able to find some plays down field now that they have the full compliment of their receivers.
When: Sunday, December 15 2013, 4:05 pm EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN)
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Injury Report (as of Thursday) –
Jets – DNP: WR Stephen Hill (knee), S Ed Reed (not injury related) LMT: CB Antonio Cromartie (hip, concussion), WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring), TE Kellen Winslow (knee).
Panthers – DNP: LB Jordan Senn (hamstring, illness), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee) LMT: TE Greg Olsen (foot)
Don’t let Cam run – The Panthers have been a good running team this season, but a lot of that production comes from Cam as a runner. He is the second leading rusher and the only one on the team who averages more than 4 yards per rush. If the Jets contain Newton, they probably can shut down the Panthers running game. That forces Newton to beat them with his arm. As much as he has improved in that aspect recently, Newton still struggles to read a defense and make the difficult touch passes.
Win in the trenches offensively – The Panthers strength is their ability to get a rush with just their front four. The Jets have struggled pass blocking in recent weeks. If the Jets can’t get those guys blocked up, Smith is in for a long day.
Hit some big plays – The Jets aren’t going to be able to methodically move the ball down the field on this team. They are strong against the run, have a ferocious pass rush, and can force turnovers. If the Jets want to score points, they are going to need to have some quick drives and pick up yards in chunks.
Dee Milliner – The Jets have the players to limit Newton’s rushing yards, and the Panthers running game overall. The challenge will be both focusing on Newton as a runner and limiting their success through the air. Antonio Cromartie is a game-time decision, but it seems he is likely to play. He will probably be matched up with Steve Smith, so that leaves Ted Ginn to Milliner. Ginn has been the Panthers main deep threat, averaging 15.3 yards per catch. It’s well known by now the Jets are susceptible to giving up the big play. Milliner had arguably his best game as a pro last week. If he can build on that and shut Ginn down, the Jets have a chance of keeping this a low-scoring affair.
The Pick – It’s hard to pick against the Panthers. They’ve been arguably the best team in football over the last couple months. The loss to New Orleans was brutal, but the Saints are a juggernaut at home. Good teams don’t lose two in a row. And they’ll be home, while they Jets have clearly struggled on the road. They’ve lost by more than two touchdowns in their last three road games.
The win against the Raiders was nice, but the Panthers are a completely different animal. The Jets will have another tough day offensively, and even if the defense can limit Newton and the Panthers offense, it won’t be enough.
Panthers win 27-13