Florham Park, N.J.– The 5-2 Jets travel to Detroit looking to bounce back from their Halloween, ‘Fright-Fest,’ loss to the Packers by playing a young, talented and frisky 2-5 Detroit Lions. Don’t let the name of the franchise, or their record, fool you these are not the same joke of a football team the Lions have been in recent memory, this team is loaded with talented weapons.
When and Where?: 1:00 P.M. at Ford Field Detroit Michigan
Lions at 2-5, How Did They Get There?: The Lions lost their first four games of the season, but they proved to no longer be pushovers as they lost three of those four games by less than one touchdown. They did this after losing their starting quarterback Matt Stafford at the end of the first-half of their first game of the season in a 19-14 loss to the Bears, in which you might remember Calvin Johnson’s nonchalant response to catching a potential game-winning touchdown pass caused the catch to be ruled incomplete. With backup Shaun Hill taking over for the injured Stafford the Lions went on to lose a tough game against the Eagles where Michael Vick exploded on the Lions early and although they put up a valiant comeback effort they still fell three points short in a 35-32 loss.
In their next game the Lions let Adrian Peterson run all over them as he rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns and the Vikings won 24-10. The Lions then had to travel to Green Bay where they refused to just go away yet again, as they were losing 28-14 early in the third quarter after a Charles Woodson pick six, but the Lions put up a fight kicking four field-goals before the Packers were finally able to run out the clock in their 28-26 victory.
After starting off 0-4, the Lions would go on to win two of their next three games with a bye week mixed in. First the Lions thumped the St. Louis Rams 44-6, then they lost their next game in the New Meadowlands Stadium against the Giants, but still managed to keep the game close as they lost Hill right before half-time and they had to call on third-string QB Drew Stanton to relieve him in their 28-20 loss to the Giants.
Then following their bye week and the return of Stafford, the Lions came back from a 13-7 half-time deficit to outscore the Redskins 30-12 in the second-half of the Lions 37-25 victory, of course the Lions have Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan to thank for padding the score for them as the game was much closer than the score would indicate. With 3:12 left in the game Stafford threw his fourth TD pass of the day and Calvin Johnson’s third TD catch to give the Lions a 28-25 lead, then after a four-and-out by the Redskins the Lions tacked on another field-goal before Shanahan mysteriously benched his QB, McNabb, in favor of Rex Grossman. Who as if on cue, immediately fumbled the ball on his first snap leaving the ball for the dominating number one draft pick Ndamukong Suh to pick-up and run back for a touchdown.
The Lions had been so bad for so long that you knew this day had to come eventually, they just have too many great top draft picks to continue being terrible, now that they started drafting at other positions than just WR.
Lions Offense Vs. Jets Defense
Rushing: In the loss to the Eagles the Lions wasted a breakout game from their rookie running back, Jahvid Best (17 carries for 78 yards, 4.6 yards per carry and nine receptions for 154 yards at 17.1 yards per carry), however they haven’t been able to get much production out of their backfield at any other point in the season as they rank 30th in the league in rushing yards with just 82.3 yards a game and obviously the success against the run for the Jets has been well covered on this site as they are only allowing an average of 88.7 yards per game and there is no reason to expect for this trend to get bucked this weekend.
Passing: As strong as the Jets run D has been most of the season their pass D was equally as ineffective throughout the beginning of the season, but the one good sign from the ugly Halloween loss to the Packers was the play of Darrelle Revis and the entire defense. With Revis back you should expect the Jets D to play like it did last week and get back to it’s stingy ways, however the Lions will not be easily contained. The Lions starting QB has only played six quarters of football and they still have the seventh best passing attack in the league, averaging 250.6 yards per game, of course the Jets secondary did do a great job of keeping the explosive passing attacks of the Broncos and Packers in check, but neither of those teams have as WR even close to as physically dangerous as Calvin Johnson.
Edge– If I didn’t believe Revis was 100 percent I might give the edge to the Lions, but after the way the secondary played last week, holding the Packers to only those three field-goals with the great field-positioning they got it’s hard to imagine the secondary getting anywhere near lit up. Johnson is too good to be shutout completely, but keeping him under control will be the key and should be done relatively well, especially if the Jets can provide enough pressure to rattle the young QB. Jets.
Jets Offense Vs. Lions Defense
Rushing: The Jets have the third best rushing attack in the NFL, but they have gotten away from the running game a bit too much in their past two games and with all the turnovers expect the focus to turn back to the running game. The Lions meanwhile rank 27th overall in rush defense allowing 130.4 yards a game, including allowing a whopping 6.1 yards per carry on first-down. So expect plenty of L.T. and even more of the physical Shonn Greene this week. You’ve been hearing this before every game, but the Jets will be focused on flexing their running muscles on the road, if for no other reason than to eat up clock and keep Calvin Johnson on the sidelines.
Passing: After the Jets three game stretch against all their division rivals in which the Jets offense had exploded and seemed to be clicking on all cylinders anyone who peaked ahead at this game in the schedule was probably thinking the Jets would easily win this matched-up, but the offense has done some serious regressing since that point and it’s becoming abundantly clear that this Lions defense is dangerous in many different ways. The Lions have 23 sacks (already just three less than all of last season), the sixth most in the NFL, and 8 interceptions so far on the season, with Sanchez once again being plagued by the turnover bug, even if they weren’t all his fault, the Jets will need to be extra careful not to cough up the ball and give the Lions a short field to work with. There is no reason the Jets shouldn’t be able to win this battle as they have the offensive-line to contain this Lions pass rush and the receivers, who theoretically should be able to win their match-ups and make plays, but after what we have seen the last couple of games from the offense they are going to have to prove they can win this match-up before they earn the edge.
Special Teams: The Lions have a solid special teams unit, including a dangerous return man in Stefan Logan, but the Jets special teams unit is elite, as long as their punter doesn’t decide to take off on anymore fourth-and-18’s deep in their own territory. Nick Folk has had a great season so far and will be looking to rebound from his one missed chance last week against the Packers, the wind in the New Meadowlands Stadium made kicking field-goals difficult at times last week, but here in the dome of Ford Field there will be no such problems.
Jets O-line Vs. Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch– The first spotlight match-up takes us to the trenches of the football battle field, the Jets have what many consider to be the best o-line in football, but the Lions have proven to be very capable of attacking the teams opposing quarterback. Vanden Bosch is a willy veteran who has continuously shown he has a high-motor and can cause all types of disruption within the o-line, Suh is the number one draft pick from this year’s rookie class, but he is playing like a seasoned vet wreaking havoc with his physical nature (already with 6.5 sacks on the season). It will be up to Brandon Moore to contain Suh for most of the game and this should be an interesting battle to say the least. The Jets must contain these two sacks machines if they have any hope of moving the ball steadily through the air.
Mark Sanchez and WR’s Vs. CBs Chris Houston, Alphonso Smith and Safety Louis Delmas
The Lions have not only upgraded their passing attack, but their secondary is also much improved. CB Chris Houston is holding his match-ups to only 4.9 yards per attempt and Alphonso Smith on the other side is allowing 6.1 yards per attempt, giving the Lions a nice one-two set of their own at corner. Safety Louis Delmas has been solid as well, but the rest of the Lions secondary is filled with holes that Sanchez can exploit if he recognizes them. If Sanchez and his WRs can win these battles that will open up everything else for them and obviously the running game, which will be the Jets focus. No matter what it’s important Sanchez not fall into the turnover trap and to accomplish that he will have to identify what these three play-makers are doing.
Stafford and Calvin Johnson Vs. Revis and Company
With Revis 100 percent healthy he will most likely draw Johnson in coverage more than anyone else, but expect the Jets to give him some help from the safeties because while the Lions do have other sneaky weapons they can use underneath, there are very few people in the NFL that are as dangerous as Johnson.
Pettigrew and Burleson Vs. Jets Secondary
With most of the attention turning to Johnson once Stafford drops back, it will be important that the Jets don’t shade too much help his way so that they leave things open underneath for these two receiving threats. The Jets passing D should be able to contain these two without much of an issue, but if they get caught worrying about Johnson too much Stafford can absolutely make them pay.
1) Don’t get to cute, Schotty. Ground-and-Pound, Ground-and-Pound. – The Jets have gotten away from their traditional ground-and-pound ways, no matter how Ryan and his coaching staff try and spin it the Jets need to get back to wearing defenses out by pounding the rock right at them. Greene needs to get more carries than L.T. this week as the Lions are particularly suspect at stopping big physical runners who run straight at them and bowl them over, Detroit Lions meet Shonn Greene.
The Lions are giving up most of their yardage on the ground when teams run up the middle and to the right side of the Lions D, look for the Jets to follow this blueprint and make this a mostly ball-control, field-position and defensive game and then look to open things up if they are there, but it would be shocking to see the Jets come out taking chances down-field, they want to wear this Lions defense down and Greene provides the best chance of completing that task.
2) WRs Just Hold on to the Ball – That’s it, they are running their routes correctly, they are getting open, they just can’t hold on to the thing already. Cotchery is normally as sure-handed as they come and don’t be surprised to see Sanchez look to him early to get build both of their confidence levels and sooner or later Holmes is going to have one of those breakout games that reminds everyone exactly why the Jets traded for him.
3) Sanchez – Remain confident and stay sharp, make up your mind fast and be sure of your decision. As long as he does these things and Schotty doesn’t give him too much to do too early this game should provide the perfect bounce back opportunity. Also if there is one thing we have learned from watching Sanchez play poorly in losses, it’s that he tends to rebound quite nicely in the next game.
1) Attack Stafford – The Jets pass rush hasn’t been able to sack opposing QBs anywhere near the amount they had hoped for, but much of the reason for that is that A) the opposing team knows they are sending the house and is ready to throw the ball almost immediately after they snap it and B) teams are lining up in shoutgun formation much more to buy their QB an extra second or two and it’s working.
Thanks to the good people over at ESPN, the Football Outsiders and their in-depth breakdown of any and all stats we can all see that teams have adjusted to Rex Ryan’s blitz schemes by running more shotgun and it has been extremely effective.
“How far has the Jets’ pass defense fallen this year? Look at the difference between opponents in shotgun formations compared to standard formations. The Jets give up 7.1 yards per play to shotgun formations, worse than every defense except Jacksonville, but they give up just 3.6 yards per play to quarterbacks under center, better than every defense except the Giants.” Aaron Schatz points out.
2) Contain Johnson and Watch Out For Jahvid Best On Screens – As previously said Johnson is one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL, he has a unique blend of size, strength and speed and has great hands. If the defense loses focus on him for a second he can make a play before you bat an eye. Best is most dangerous in the open field and while the Jets have done a great job at containing other similar backs in the screen game, it will be equally important this week as they focus on Johnson and try and bring the house to apply pressure to Stafford.
3) Limit the drive killing penalties – The Jets were plagued by these problems at the beginning of the season before they straightened it out for a couple of games, but last week some key penalties absolutely killed a couple of drives that could have won the game for them, the Jets are too good to be beating themselves like that.
The Pick– The Jets had the momentum of the world in their favor before their bye week break, but the week off seemed to get the offense out of rhythm and they were never able to get it on track in time to squeak out a win against the Packers. With the defense probably playing it’s best all-around game of the season, look for that trend to continue and the offense to come out motivated after a long week of intense practice. The Jets should be able to neutralize the Lions weapons and win this game rather easily.
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