PREVIEW: NY JETS (6-7) @ TITANS (4-9)
THE NEW YORK JETS PUT THEIR PLAYOFF HOPES ON THE LINE AGAINST THE TENNESSEE TITANS ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.
In a game that’ll more than likely not live up to a “Clash of the Titans” label, the Jets — formerly the Titans of the New York — take their playoff hopes on the road to play the Titans of Tennessee on Monday Night Football. Winners in three of their last four, the Jets will look to extend their recent winning ways and offer clarity to a cloudy AFC playoff picture.
They will attempt to do so by duplicating Rex Ryan’s formula that triggered playoffs runs in 2009 and 2010 — dominating the box score in three categories: rushing attempts, completions (or completion percentage) and turnovers. The result isn’t an aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but has recently resulted in wins. Over the past four games the Jets have run the ball 155 times for 586 yards or 146.5 yards per game and in their three wins they had 40+ rushing attempts.
The statistics belong to running backs Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, who’ve are certainly deserving of praise, but it’s the offensive line that’s sparked their success.
“We’re able to move people off of the football and we’re opening up some running lanes,” Ryan said Friday. “I think that’s obviously been good for us. It’s probably a key for our success, being able to run the football.”
Ryan’s defense feasted on two stagnant offenses as they put up gaudy numbers against Ryan Lindley and Chad Henne-led teams. On Monday, the Titans will present a more difficult task for a defense that’s beginning to catch steam — now ranking eighth overall in total defense.
Chris Johnson (1,047 yards, 4.7 yards per carry) embodies the type of running back that has burned the Jets in the not-so-distant history. His shifty, cut-and-go running style could prove difficult against a defense that still has to prove they’re past their tackling issues from earlier this season. Despite the defensive clamp on the Jaguars, led by potential Pro Bowlers Muhammed Wilkerson, LaRon Landry and Antonio Cromartie, they did allow 92 yards and a touchdown to fourth-string running back Montell Owens — a performance highlighted by a nifty 32-yard touchdown run.
Continuing their recent success on stopping teams on third down (2-for-31 in their last two games) will be key against the likes of Johnson and second-year quarterback Jake Locker (142/247, 57.5 cmp%, 1,735 yards, 9 TDs/9 INTs). His big arm and ability to make plays with his feet is reminiscent of Ben Roesthlisberger. Unfortunately for Titans, so is his durability questions. Locker’s missed five games this season with a shoulder injury.
Ryan said Friday he has his Jets ready and focused for the Titans and not potential playoff scenarios. That’s a good idea because a loss in one of their final three games all but officially eliminates them from the NFL’s second season.
“Our whole thing is it’s all about this opponent [Tennessee]. I’ve said it the last several weeks. It’s just about what we have to do, and that’s to find a way to beat Tennessee. That’s the way it has to be. That’s the position we’re in. All the other stuff aside, we know that we have to win this game. That’s 100 percent of where our focus is.”
WHEN: Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 9pm EST (Can bee seen on ESPN or heard on ESPN Radio).
WHERE: Nashville, Tennessee / LP Field (capacity: 69,143).
SERIES HISTORY: 41st meeting, Titans lead all-time 22-17-1.
LAST MEETING: Jets 24 — Titans 17 (9/27/09 @ Meadowlands Stadium).
NOTABLE: The Jets have won five out of the last six meetings, dating back to 1998. The lone Titans win during that timeframe was a 10-6 victory on Dec. 23, 2007 at LP Field. This week’s game marks the second all-time matchup between the Titans and Jets on Monday Night Football. On Monday, Dec. 1, 2003, the Jets defeated the Titans at the Meadowlands by a final score of 24-17.
- JETS – Rex Ryan / fourth season / 34-27 regular season / 4-2 playoffs
- TITANS — Mike Munchak / second season / 13-16 regular season
- JETS — DID NOT PRACTICE - CB Aaron Berry (hamstring), WR Edmond Gates (concussion), WR Stephen Hill (knee), TE Dustin Keller (ankle), S LaRon Landry (heel). LIMITED – WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring), DT Sione Pouha (back), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder, toe), LB Bryan Thomas (chest). FULL - TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist), DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), DT Damon Harrison (ankle), C Nick Mangold (shoulder), RB Joe McKnight (ankle), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder), QB Mark Sanchez (back), LB Ricky Sapp (ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe), G Matt Slauson (knee), QB Tim Tebow (ribs)
- TITANS — DID NOT PRACTICE – LB Colin McCarthy (concussion), DE Scott Solomon (knee), WR Damian Williams (hamstring). LIMITED – DT Jurrell Casey (knee). FULL - WR Kenny Britt (knee), CB Michael Griffin (neck), RB Chris Johnson (ankle), QB Jake Locker (left shoulder), T Michael Roos (knee), DE Kamerion Wimbley (toe).
- D’Brickashaw Ferguson vs. Kamerion Wimbley – After a rocky 2011 season in which he allowed eight sacks, Ferguson is now the only remaining tackle in 2012 to not allow a sack. A rock solid performance for the veteran anchor on a resurgent offensive line. He’ll have his hands full on Monday, however, as Wimbley will be looking to improve on his low sack total (5).
- Kyle Wilson vs. Titans’ no. 2 WR — It won’t matter if it’s Nate Washington or Kendall Wright, Ryan has faith in Wilson to get the job done.
“He’s been tremendous. This is the guy we signed up for when we drafted him. He kind of had some growing pains and he’s really stepped it up in those areas. Also, being a full-time starter is something he has always had that type of skill set [for]. Kyle has to take on that burden [because of] the fact that they’re not going to throw [to Antonio Cromartie]. It’s coming at [him] and he’s really answered the call,” Ryan said.
- Jets Punt Protection vs Titans Punt Block Team – An odd match-up to watch, I know. But Kristian Dyer of New York Metro had some interesting food for thought. “Jets have had punt protection issues and the Titans can capitalize. The Titans are third in the league with a 1.79 % punt block percentage,” Dyer tweeted Friday. Something to keep an eye on as Mike Westhoff’s usually stellar special teams have been lacking in 2012.
- Bilal Powell, RB, Jets — Ryan said he should be ready to go after X-rays revealed that he did not have a fracture in his toe as reported earlier in the week. Powell had a career-high 19 carries on Sunday and single-handedly drove the Jets offense downfield for their eventual game-winning score in the third quarter. Mark Sanchez said his maturation on the field is undeniable.
“I think earlier in the year, he would even say there were a couple cuts here and there where he could have done this and he could have done that. Now he’s hitting them and making some big gains out of them. He looks like he’s getting more confident out there.”
- Jake Locker, QB, Titans – I mentioned earlier how I see Locker as a poor man’s Big Ben. At 6-3/235 pounds his thick frame means defenders simply can’t bring him down with arm tackles, yet his 4.59 (40-yard) speed has helped him be the Titans’ second-leading rusher. Locker loves to rollout to extend plays and isn’t afraid pull the ball down and run for yards. The Jets defensive line, alas Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, has been dominant as of late and will focus on keeping pocket containment a high priority against Locker.
THE PICK: It won’t be pretty, but don’t expect much more of their games to be. Another week to prove Ryan’s formula right as the Jets will narrowly rush their way to a victory before a later Titan turnover seals the game for Gang Green. JETS 24 — TITANS 10.