PREVIEW: 49ers (2-1) @ NY JETS (2-1)
Do you think Rex Ryan gets a little green with envy when preparing for Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers?
Since his introduction as Jets head coach prior to the 2010 season, Ryan has envisioned his team in a certain way: defensively labeled as a hard-nosed, smash-mouth unit that creates turnovers and beats up the quarterback — and if they put a few players on their ass, no one would be complaining. Offensively, Ryan has always wanted to establish the run, or as he aptly calls it “ground & pound”, whether the opponent knows it or not while the quarterback is efficient enough to hold on to the ball, manage the game and maybe make a completion or two.
Fast forward to the 2012 season, Ryan hires Tony Sparano as his offensive coordinator to help fulfill that very vision. And while everyone publicly questioned whether his resistance in offensive strategy from the conventional shift to a passing-oriented league would work, a team from the Bay Area led by a boisterous (some may say down-right cocky) coach has already mastered it in only his second year.
Harbaugh is coaching Ryan’s wet dream team. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
Ryan has never been shy about giving credit in the week for the upcoming opponent — the Jets media relations department transcribed a page-and-a-quarter of nothing but Ryan commending everyone on the Steelers’ roster in Week 2. This week, while not as lengthy, was no different. He even went out of his way to name 49ers Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee and offered a joking apology to David Akers, in fear he may give him a Judo Chop.
“They’re the number one special teams unit in all of football last year, with the Pro Bowl kicker, obviously, and a Pro Bowl punter in Andy [Lee]. The big lefty out there, I’m drawing a blank. Akers? What’s his name? Yeah, [David] Akers. I’m trying to disrespect him. Just kidding, the guy has like a 30th degree black belt, I’m not going to mess with that guy,” he said Wednesday.
With no Darrelle Revis, let’s hope the game against Ryan’s dream team won’t turn in to a nightmare.
WHEN: Sunday, September 30, 2012 @ 1 pm EST (Can be seen on Fox or heard on ESPN Radio).
WHERE: East Rutherford, NJ / MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)
SERIES HISTORY: 49ers lead 9-2-0
LAST MEETING: 49ers 24 — Jets 14 / Candlestick Park (12/07/08)
NOTABLE: New York’s two victories against San Francisco have come when the Jets defense has held the 49ers offense to 14 points or less.
- JETS — Rex Ryan / Fourth Season with Jets / 34-23 (including postseason).
- 49ERS – Jim Harbaugh / Second Season with 49ers / 16-5 (including postseason).
- JETS — OUT – CB Darrelle Revis (knee). DOUBTFUL – WR Stephen Hill (hamstring). QUESTIONABLE – RB John Conner (knee), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), LB Bart Scott (toe), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring), WR Patrick Turner (hamstring) . PROBABLE – LB Nick Bellore (shoulder), CB Antonio Cromartie (shoulder), DT Mike Devito (calf), T Austin Howard (back), S LaRon Landry (heel), CB Ellis Lankster (back), C Nick Mangold (wrist), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (achilles), DT Sione Pouha (back), QB Mark Sanchez (back), G Matt Slauson (knee), S Eric Smith (hip, knee), CB Isaiah Trufant (ankle).
- 49ERS — QUESTIONABLE – WR Ted Ginn (ankle), RB Brandon Jacobs (knee), DT Isaac Sopoaga (ankle, knee). PROBABLE – TE Vernon Davis (back), P Andy Lee (hand), LB Patrick Willis (ankle).
- Rex Ryan vs. Jim Harbaugh – In my three season of doing preview articles for the Jets, never have I thought of putting coaches in the Key Match-up section. A little foolish of me. But this week, I’m very excited to see the chess match between these two similarly built teams. Sharing the same type of philosophy, it’ll be the interesting to watch the checks and re-checks these coaches make in order to fool the other. I think he’s thinking I’m going to be thinking this, so if I think of that he’ll never think I’d think of that. What?
- Frank Gore vs. Jets’ Front 7 — The Jets defense have the 28th-ranked run defense in the league, giving up an average of 148 yards per game on the ground. Yikes. Wouldn’t surprise me to see more four-man fronts this week to stack the line of scrimmage. Kenrick Ellis, Muhammed Wilkerson and Mike DeVito all have been above average in stopping the run. The problem has been when interior linemen like Ellis and Sione Po’uha take multiple tackles leaving Bart Scott to make plays. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Scott has already tallied eight missed tackles this year. He missed nine all last season. Maybe he should put a little hot sauce on himself.
- Vernon Davis vs. Anyone Jets put on him — Ryan stated that Davis was the best tight end in the game — this week at least. But he may not be too far off, he leads the league in touchdowns by a tight end (4). His receptions and yards aren’t that high, but when they reach the endzone the he’s Alex Smith’s top target. The Jets have made a much-noticed improvement with defending tight ends (opposing TEs average 4/31.6/.66 vs NY Jets through 3 games), but this will be their first big test. Much of that credit goes to the physical play of LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell.
- Mario Manningham, WR, 49ers — The Super Bowl savior can be a great slot receiver and has a favorable match-up going against Ellis Lankster. With the Jets having to bump everyone up on the defensive depth chart due to the loss of Revis, Smith should be able to target the former New York Giant with regularity — when they’re not running the ball. He’s still getting comfortable with the Niners offense, but saw his best game last week against the Minnesota Vikings (5/56). A reliable possession receiver, his numbers should continue to rise — especially against a banged up Jets secondary.
- Kyle Wilson, CB, Jets — Speaking of the Jets’ banged-up secondary, all eyes will be on Wilson for the remainder of the season as this is his 13-game tryout to see if he can be a starting cornerback in this league. In speaking with a few trusted football minds, I can see Wilson more suited as a true corner more than a nickel cornerback. As a sideline corner for Boise State he was labeled as one of the top corner prospects in the 2010 draft. Not having to worry about cutting left and right in the middle of the field, Wilson can find solace in having the sideline close to him. Interesting stats: The Jets have zero team interceptions in games that Revis has not played. In conjunction, Smith went 249 passing attempts without throwing an interception — putting him ahead the likes of Joe Montana and Steve Young in the 49ers’ history books.
THE PICK: I have more confidence in the Jets winning this game than, say, going up to Seattle and winning there oddly enough. However, I think the 49ers are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Legitimate Super Bowl contenders should not lose back-t0-back games to teams that are lesser than them. While west coast teams are 26-68 versus east coast teams during 1 o’clock games since 2007, I don’t see the San Fran leaving with a .500 record. 49ERS 28 – JETS 13