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JETS - TITANS PREVIEW

By Bob Bonett
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
December 21st, 2007
Titans Center Kevin Mawae will host his former teammates as the Jets visit Tennessee this Sunday.
Titans Center Kevin Mawae will host his former teammates as the Jets visit Tennessee this Sunday.

Debates are aplenty in the Meadowlands these days—who to start at quarterback, what to do in the upcoming draft, even if two losses to close out the season would be better for the team than two wins.

However, while fans may wish for some sort of lackluster performance with hopes of moving up in next year’s draft, many Jets have much to play for, with contracts expiring and the possibility of many players leaving town next year.

Moreover, New York will finally have the luxury of playing a game without having to look forward to the daunting New England Patriots. The Jets undoubtedly came out flat two weeks ago against Cleveland, perhaps having their sights set on Bill Belichick and company. This week, though, while a prospective match-up with former head man Herm Edwards may make for an interesting storyline, it is doubtful any players on the team are looking ahead to the Week 17 match-up against a four-win team.

As Mangini and the players have mentioned this week, Tennessee’s stadium will have a certain playoff atmosphere to it. In early-season regular season games, LP Field manages to be deafening—thus, in a late-season contest with playoff implications written all over, the crowd will certainly show up.

Thus, this is an opportunity for New York to make an impact in the playoff picture. QB Chad Pennington, WR Laveranues Coles, RB Thomas Jones and the rest of the offense will look to live up to the preseason hype of a playoff-bound team.

Standing in the way of the Jets is a stingy Titans defense and mobile quarterback extraordinaire Vince Young. Tennessee’s ‘D’ has allowed only a hair over 20 points per game this year, while the X-factor Young brings about with his ability to move so fluidly outside of the pocket makes opposing defense’s heads’ spin.

It may not be the playoff game New York hoped for. It isn’t in January, nor is it against the Patriots with a chance at moving on to the Super Bowl. However, with the possibility of a new-look club in 2008, and the potential for it to be the marking of the end of the Pennington era, the Jets have plenty to play for this Sunday afternoon.

Jets ‘O’ vs. Titans ‘D’

David Thornton, Keith Bulluck and Nick Harper form the core of a defense that, when at its best, is one of the best in the league. New York, on the other hand, has looked average at best on the offensive side of the ball time and time again this season. Unless “Classic Chad,” as head coach Eric Mangini calls him, shows up, Gang Green will have trouble converting on KR Leon Washington’s returns during the game.

Advantage: Titans

Jets ‘D’ vs. Titans ‘O’

The core of Gang Green’s defense has certainly started to form; around LB David Harris and S Kerry Rhodes, New York brings a well-rounded attack. However, Tennessee has quite a wide array of weapons. Young is a multi-faceted threat, RB Chris Brown has looked great at times—albeit mediocre sometimes as well—and Roydell Williams and Justin Gage can hurt a defense when it bites too much on Young’s running game.

Advantage: Titans

Special teams battle

This match-up is not all that close. For the Jets, the only weakness is P Ben Graham, and he has even looked decent of late. For Tennessee, nobody matches up with Washington at all, and while K Rob Bironas as been very accurate, Mike Nugent—save one field goal that won’t be mentioned from last week—has hit his late-season stride again.

Advantage: Jets

Storylines

Sunday’s contest could be the final game for Pennington and Coles together.

Tennessee needs to win out to even have a shot at making the postseason.

Mangini has called Tennessee’s stadium a “hostile environment” thanks to the noisy fan base.

While the two teams squared off last season, it has been nearly two years since Tennessee and New York face each other; last time the two teams played, Young was not even the signal-caller for the Titans. New York won the game last year behind a huge game from Pennington.

Pennington is returning home to Tennessee in what may be his final start as a Jet.

Key to victory

New York has the propensity to be better than Tennessee in every phase of the game; as Jeff Fisher said, Gang Green is the “best 3-11 team” he has ever seen. Thus, as it is every week, the key to victory for New York is getting Jones going on the ground. While New York can use Pennington’s accurate arm and Washington’s return game to get the team moving, it will be key for Jones to carry the ball in excess of 20 times. Young is susceptible to making mistakes, so if Gang Green’s defense causes some havoc on the backs of Rhodes and Harris, Pennington plays a smart game, and Jones manages to rush for close to 100 yards, New York should be able to pull off the upset victory.

Prediction

We witnessed the Jets contain QB Ben Roethlisberger against the Steelers, then allow QB Tony Romo to have his way outside of the pocket. Young is much more mobile than the other two, but the Jets’ defense has looked good the second half of the season. New York uses great field position thanks to Washington to ride the arm of Pennington to their fourth victory.

Jets 23, Titans 13

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