The New York Jets (3-4) return to MetLife Stadium on Sunday at 1pm EST to take on the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons (3-3). The game will have several interesting storylines to follow, as both teams will be fighting for a win to keep their respective seasons alive. The Falcons have lost three in a row, all to AFC East opponents, while the Jets will look to recover from two crushing divisional losses.
The rain is expected to come down heavy and throughout the entirety of the game. A dome team with the better quarterback would figure to be more impacted by these conditions, however the Falcons also have one of the better rushing offenses in football. The Jets will need to survive the elements and win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Expect a heavy dose of Bilal Powell, with Austin Seferian-Jenkins the focus in the passing game.
While Buster Skrine is coming off his worst game of the season, he has been ruled out for this Sunday (concussion), leaving the Jets secondary with a major hole to fill. Cornerback Robert Nelson seems likely to play a key role in Skrine’s absence, as he was promoted from the practice squad earlier in the week. Also out for the Jets is starting right tackle Brandon Shell (neck) who will be replaced by Brent Qvale. Mo Wilkerson is questionable but seems likely to play coming off his best performance of the season.
Make the adjustments
It is no secret what has cost the Jets over the last two weeks. Penalties, combined with a lack of adjustments have made for some cringe-worthy second half football. The effort is there, but the focus and killer instinct have not been, as this is a team still learning how to close games out. John Morton has done things in the first quarter with the Jets offense that we have not seen in years. 38-year-old Josh McCown has the second highest completion percentage in all of football. Now they must do it for four quarters.
Bowles vs. Quinn
Don’t expect Todd Bowles to channel his inner Rex Ryan and call this matchup personal against Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. It is however only natural as a competitor to feel a little something extra when facing with the man who many felt the organization should have hired instead of you. It would be impossible for Bowles not to have heard the “what if” stories during the Falcons Super Bowl run last year. Now, Bowles has an opportunity to show if he can outsmart Quinn in a game with much on the line for both teams. There have been many positives to take away from the Jets preparation during the week, and this week will be another big test for Bowles’ defense.
Confidence lacking for Falcons offense?
The Falcons offense has taken a major step back going from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan last year to Steve Sarkisian this year. Matt Ryan has already thrown six interceptions in six games, after throwing just seven all of last year. The Falcons offense has struggled in the red zone and their points per game have dipped from 32 in 2016 to to 21.3 this year. While Julio Jones will certainly take up much of the defense’s attention, don’t sleep on Atlanta’s rushing attack with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, two backs that have consistently made plays behind a formidable offensive line.
The NFL remains a week to week league, and the Jets find themselves facing a hungry and desperate Atlanta Falcons team. The thing several fail to mention is that the Jets are just as hungry and desperate as they realize how close they have been to proving the naysayers wrong. A win propels the team to 4-4 at the midway point in the season, further along than anybody could have predicted. A win would put the Jets in position for a fun Thursday night matchup against Buffalo with a chance to officially join the playoff hunt. On paper, there is every reason to pick the Falcons, but the weather may be just enough to get the defense going and keep Matty Ice on ice. Jets win 20-10.