FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The immaculate timeout? Not quite what the Jets had envisioned coming into Lambeau Field against the Packers as decided underdogs and having a chance to move to an unforeseen 2-0 start to the season only to have a 37-yard touchdown catch by Jeremy Kerley that would have potentially tied the game at 34 all, negated by an apparent error in communication by Jets coaches and player (Sheldon Richardson) on the sideline.
Moving on is the difficult part and one Gang Green has to face on Monday Night Football against a Chicago Bears (1-1) team coming off a potential season-changing win in primetime on the road against the San Fransisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. After practice on Thursday this week, Jets Head Coach, Rex Ryan said “You wish you had a game on Thursday. Anytime you lose, you can’t wait to get back on that field. Now the fact that it pushes to Monday, that is typical of us.”
“Lose a game and then you have to wait. And when you have a Thursday game you probably win that one, so you can’t enjoy it. But you do, you can’t wait to get back on the field. We would have loved to have played yesterday, that’s just the way it is,” he continued.
This week another NFC North foe stands in the way led by a hot Jay Cutler. There’s good Cutler and then bad Cutler, and the 4 touchdown performance was reminiscent of Cutler’s final season in Denver in 2009, where he had his best season with the Broncos, throwing 25 touchdown passes, mostly to his partner in crime now Brandon Marshall. That was good Cutler. The Cutler on NFL Kickoff weekend against the Buffalo Bills who threw 2 interceptions was the turnover prone quarterback who has often been criticized for being a ‘gunslinger’.
It’s also a reunion game with the former MVP of Super Bowl XLIII and former Jets receiver of two and a half plus years with Gang Green, Santonio Holmes who signed with the Bears this offseason. Holmes proved his worth after the Jets gave him a chance, trading a 5th round pick for him in 2010. Holmes provided immediate dividends helping the team to the AFC Championship game in 2011, and signed a 5 year, 50 million dollar extension to stay with the Jets in the 2011 offseason after the NFL lockout. He ended his tenure on a sour note in Miami as a perceived malcontent with former starting quarterback Mark Sanchez marring the final part of his tenure.
A ‘Monday Night Football’ game on the big stage can be the launching point which transcends the Jets season into the right direction. 2-1 just has a better feel then 1-2 (and a second straight loss) especially finishing their NFC North triumvirate with another pro-bowl quarterback in Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions next week and moving toward what’s been dubbed the ‘Missiles of October’ portion of the schedule in October where the Jets defense will see Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks.
Needless to say every game in the 16-game NFL slate is important, and many team often view their season in 4-game intervals and a win here would at least ensure that the Jets conclude the first quarter of their 2014 campaign at .500.
When: Monday, September 22nd, @8:30pm EST (TV- (MNF) ESPN, Radio- ESPN)
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
DNP: E. Decker, N. Bellore, A. Edds. Full: J. Bush (quad) Limited: C. Johnson (ankle), N. Mangold (shoulder)
Center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (back)
Keys to the game
Good Geno not Bad Geno – Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well proof’s in the pudding. When quarterback Geno Smith is more efficient the results follow as in the first half last week he was potent, completing 10 of 14 passes thrown for 103 yards and a touchdown. In the second half? 6/18 with just 72 yards through the air. On the year Geno is still completing an impressive 65 percent of his attempts but has to cut down on the turnovers: just three in two games.
Injuries – As my colleague wrote earlier this week, if Eric Decker can’t go after injuring his hamstring in the final minutes of the Green Bay game the injury is vital to the Jets plans because the likely fill-in starters would be Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson. Kerley is a small, shifty wide receiver who does his work best in the slot, while Nelson is a bigger wideout on the outside. Ultimately if Decker can’t go on Monday Night Football, the Bears will attempt to duplicate what they did in San Fransisco having an easier time stacking the box against the combination of Chris Ivory and Johnson in trying to shut down the run like they did against the 49ers and Frank Gore.
In the trenches – Football games are usually won on the basis of what happens in the trenches between the offensive and defensive lines. The Jets have a talented front seven at their disposal which features two of the best young Defensive linemen in the NFL, in 2013 All-Pro Muhammad Wilkerson and last year’s defensive rookie of the year Sheldon Richardson. How injury has devastated their secondary and this week brings a tall task against arguably the best receiving duo in the NFL. With injuries hurting the Bears’ offensive line and the run game struggling thus far, the final outcome may come down to whether or not Jay Cutler has enough time to throw. If the Jets can gain an early advantage as they did in Green Bay and force the Bears to abandon the run game can be their best form of defense.
Overcoming adversity – Both teams have had their ups and downs thus far in two games without showing enough consistency. How both teams bounce back will tilt their direction to a 2-1 start. The Jets gave the Packers a run for their money and the Bears are coming off a stunning victory on Sunday night. Can the Bears have a complete game without hiccups? or will the Jets stop the self-inflicted wounds and keep an early lead?
Eric Decker – Whether or not he’s healthy will play in a key role in Monday night’s outcome. Geno Smith with the team’s key offseason acquisition simply put is a different quarterback. Smith, is completing 65.0 percent of his passes this season after connecting on 55.8 percent as a rookie. In two games thus far, Decker is averaging 15.2 yards per reception, including a 29-yard touchdown in week 2 against Green Bay. Decker’s presence on the outside has also helped bolster a potent Jets rushing attack, which leads the NFL this season, averaging 179 yards a contest (led by the duo of Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson) during the first two weeks of the year.
Dee Milliner – The last time Jay Cutler faced off against the Jets secondary, he threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth in a 2010 win over the Jets at Soldier Field. 4 years later, Cutler remains as dangerous as ever with more weapons surrounding him at his disposal. Milliner did not have a welcomed return in Green Bay, struggling to keep up with Jordy Nelson being beat for an 80-yard touchdown to give the Packers the lead for good.
Muhammad Wilkerson – The Jets run defense is the best in the NFL at this point, holding opposing halfbacks to a mere 52.5 yards per game on the ground. Wilkerson was ejected on Sunday, so he’ll need to keep his composure as a leader on the Jet defense and lead the stout front four against all-pro back Matt Forte and in pressuring a potential mistake-prone Jay Cutler.
The Jets did most things right to start the 2014 NFL season 2-0 but failed to make the critical decisions and keep composure after racing out to a big lead in Lambeau. The key for the second consecutive week will be the ability of the Jets secondary to match-up against a dynamic receiving corp duo in Brandon Marshall who caught 3 touchdowns in San Fransisco and Alshon Jeffrey (who Jet fans infamously remember being drafted after disappointing ex-Jet Stephen Hill in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft). This is after both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb shredded the Jets primarily in the Packers second half comeback in last week’s action to the tune of 14 receptions, 248 yards and 3 touchdowns. I think Gang Green will have a valiant effort in keeping the game close into the 4th by controlling the time of possession, but ultimately have trouble containing the threat of Matt Forte on the ground combined with Jay Cutler’s arsenal of pass catchers.
Bears 24, Jets 16