The 49ers play the Jets Sunday at the Meadowlands. In the meantime, Iíll break down one key matchup per day.
Running backs Shonn Green (5-11, 226 pounds) and Bilal Powell (5-10, 204 pounds) vs. the 49ers defensive front.
The Vikings proved that you have to establish a running game and stick with it to beat the 49ers. The Jets like to run Ė theyíve rushed 91 times this season, 5 fewer than the Vikings Ė the problem is the Jets arenít very good at running.Shonn Greene, their starter, is averaging 2.8 yards per carry this season. He has no burst or elusiveness and he tries to run everyone over.Their backup running back, Bilal Powell, has rushed only 22 times through three games, but heís played better than Greene. Powell is averaging 4 yards per rush and 13.3 yards per catch. Donít be surprised if Powell gets more touches than Greene gets against the 49ers.
Powell and Greene need to combine for at least 30 carries for the Jets to have a real chance at winning. Mark Sanchez is not a good quarterback, but he can be effective sometimes on play action passes if the defense respects the Jetsí run game.So far this season, the Jets are averaging 3.73 yards per rush on first down. If they can average 3.5 yards per carry on first down against the Niners, then the play-action passing game will open up for Mark Sanchez on second down like it opened up for Christian Ponder in Week 3.But the Jets wonít average 3.5 yards per carry on first down or any down against the Niners.Adrian Peterson, an All Pro, averaged 3.4 yards per carry against the Niners. Powell and Green are going to average fewer than 3 yards per carry against them on Sunday.
A quick take on the Jets' upcoming opponent, the 49ers (2-1) :
1. The 49ers will arrive at MetLife Stadium after a brutal 24-13 loss to the Vikings -- arguably the worst loss under Jim Harbaugh. They allowed 146 rushing yards (the previous high under Harbaugh was 124) and committed three turnovers (previous high: two).
2. To help get acclimated to East Coast time, the 49ers went from Minneapolis to Youngstown, Ohio, where they will practice for the week. They did the same thing last year after a win in Cincinnati, and they wound up rallying to beat the Eagles in Philly.
3. QB Alex Smith had thrown a franchise-record 249 straight passes without an interception before tossing a late pick last week. That's pretty impressive, considering some of the quarterbacks that have played for the Niners. Montana, anyone? Young?
4. The 49ers excel in two areas causing problems for the Jets: They can run the ball (No. 7 in rushing, 141 yards per game) and they stop the run (No. 8, 91 yards per game).
5. The 49ers are 9-2 all time against the Jets, including 5-1 on the road.
6. Darrelle Revis' season-ending knee injury means we don't get to see another Revis-Randy Moss battle. They developed quite a personal rivalry between 2007 and 2010, with Revis famously calling Moss "a slouch." According to SFGate.com, Moss was disappointed to hear about the injury. ďIíve always been a fan of Darrelle Revis," he said. "Iíve always liked competing against Darrelle Revis ... Iíve always put him in an upper-echelon class of cornerbacks, if the not the best cornerback in the league.Ē
7. Smith has more weapons now that they've added Moss and former Giants WR Mario Manningham, who join RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree. The Jets tried to trade for Crabtree during his rookie holdout in 2009, and they were accused by the Niners of tampering. They were exonerated.
8. The 49ers' defense, led by LB Patrick Willis and DE Justin Smith, is stacked. It might be the best in the league.
Defensive coordinators can adjust their schemes to cover for deficiencies in the secondary. Cornerback deficiencies can be easier to mask than, say, a shortage at the offensive skill positions.
2011-2012 Jets With/Without Revis
Revis On field Off field Plays 1,066 126 Pct. 54.1 62.5 YPA 5.4 7.9 TD-INT 15-23 5-0
The New York Jets' ability to adjust their defense without top cornerback Darrelle Revis will be a storyline to monitor for the San Francisco 49ers this week. The 49ers' road game against the Jets in Week 4 comes as New York begins life without its injured star. Revis suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The injury means Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and the 49ers' other receivers won't have to worry about getting stranded on "Revis Island" this week.
2012 Jets With/Without Revis
Revis On field Off field Plays 88 111 Pct. 53.8 61.7 YPA 5.4 7.6 TD-INT 1-4 4-0
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. ranked Revis fifth overall and first among cornerbacks in his player rankings for 2012. "His anticipation and his ability to jump routes is excellent and enables him to make big plays," Williamson wrote. "Many offensive coordinators will create game plans that work the opposite side of the field to negate his potential game-changing performance." As the charts from ESPN Stats & Information show, the Jets' opponents have fared considerably better in the passing game when Revis wasn't on the field for New York. Other factors could have affected the totals, but the Jets are obviously weaker without their best defensive player. Revis played about half the snaps in Week 1 and missed the team's Week 2 game against Pittsburgh. A concussion was to blame.
The Jets begin Week 4 atop the AFC East. Funny, but they don't seem like a first-place team. They played a sloppy game last week, they lost their best player and now they get the 49ers (2-1), one of the most talented teams in the league. A victory would say a lot about the Jets' resolve.
Basically, the 49ers are what the Jets (2-1) aspire to be -- a Ground-and-Pound team that controls the ball, makes the quarterback a game manager and plays great defense and special teams. Let's see if the Jets can out-49er the 49ers.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium. What to watch for:
1. Wilson Island: Kyle Wilson has been waiting two-plus years for this shot. Darrelle Revis is done for the season, and now we get to see Wilson -- the Jets' No. 1 pick in 2010 -- in a full-time role. Scouts say the knock on him is that he doesn't have great catch-up speed, but that may not be a huge factor this week. 49ers QB Alex Smith doesn't take many deep shots on the outside. In fact, his average pass attempt outside the painted numbers is only 7.4 yards (27th in the league), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Wilson could see a lot of WR Michael Crabtree, assuming Antonio Cromartie draws Randy Moss. In nickel situations, Wilson will slide inside to cover Mario Manningham. The good news for the Jets' secondary is that the 49ers don't use a lot of three-receiver packages. In fact, they've run only 46 plays with three-plus receivers, the second fewest in the league, per ESPN Stats.
2. Searching for an identity: The Jets' offense, which has produced only two TDs in its last 23 possessions, is all over the place. One week it's a fast start and lousy finish, the next week it's the reverse. Where's the consistency? In meetings this week, Tony Sparano is trying to build off the final 15-20 plays of last week's OT win in Miami. Positive reinforcement is a good idea, considering the opponent. The 49ers have a tough, well-disciplined defense with playmakers on all three levels. Their two ILBs, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, have the ability to torpedo any rushing attack. Their defense has forced a turnover in eight straight games. The Jets will have to execute almost flawlessly to have a chance.
3. Mark, 'Tone & Co.: You don't have to be a genius to figure out how the 49ers are going to play the Jets. They're going to double WR Santonio Holmes the moment he walks into the stadium. He's coming off his best game as a Jet. In fact, he was targeted 14 times -- the most times QB Mark Sanchez has ever targeted a wide receiver in a game, per ESPN Stats. You stop Holmes, you stop the Jets' passing attack. The expected return of TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) will help.
But they need another option to step up. Struggling rookie Stephen Hill (hamstring) is out, so that shifts the burden to Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens. They have to beat the 49ers' aggressive press coverage. Interesting note on the 49ers: They're vulnerable in third-and-long situations, having allowed seven of 12 conversions on third-and-9 and higher. So that's something, right?
4. Better than The Gronk: In this part of the country, most folks consider the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski the best tight end in the league. Not Rex Ryan. He called Vernon Davis "the premier tight end." Davis is a freakishly gifted receiver who can run wide-receiver routes. Since 2009, he leads all tight ends with 32 receptions of 25-plus yards. This is where S LaRon Landry comes in. The Jets signed him to bring much-needed athleticism to the safety position, helping in tight-end coverage. So far, Landry hasn't been tested -- targeted only six times with four receptions, according to ProFootballFocus. That's about to change.
5. A case of the runs: This is embarrassing for Ryan: The Jets are 28th in run defense, surrendering 149 yards per game. If that keeps up, his father, former defensive guru Buddy Ryan, might cut him out of his will. The Jets struggle against quick backs (see C.J. Spiller and Reggie Bush), runners that can exploit their lack of speed on the edges. They should be able to deal with Frank Gore, a between-the-tackles runner who excels in the 49ers' north-south scheme. Of course, Gore is damn good, and so is the 49ers' offensive line. The 49ers are 23-7 when Gore rushes for at least 100 yards.