Key to a Victory:
Now, one of the things rarely talked about when it comes to a football game is Special Teams. The AFC leading Kick-Returner is Brad Smith. Due to the great Special Teams' coach, Mike Westhoff, the Jets special teams unit has excelled and continues to do so. And, on the other end, the Lions have an underrated unit, but have improved, regardless of last week against the Redskins. Stefan Logan has taken one to the house already, and continues his success every week. Brad Smith has been close, and found open lanes, and continues to excel as a returner also.
With the Lions home field, sold-out, crowd, a major factor will be special teams and the return game. If the Jets or Lions can stop the big returns, blocked punts, fake punts, blocked field goals, field goals… you name it. If there is a difference to be made, and prove your team's worth, it's in this game.
We all know about last week's infamous fake punt call, this week, expect one again. Expect everyone to be on the same page though. And, expect the Lions to be prepared. One of the key ingredients to the recipe for success against the Lions is to control their special teams unit, and not allow them to control us. The Jets have been controlled their opponents on kick returns. Even though, the Jets have not taken a return to the house, they have excelled and pulled the blocks needed in order to do so. The Jets have been very close also. However, when it comes to punt coverage and punt returns, the Jets have been chained to the fence, and trying to find an escape route.
Now, the Jets may catch a break from the Lions' Special Teams unit. An under the radar offseason acquisition by the Lions was acquiring Pro-Bowl alternate special teamer, Isaiah Ekejiuba. He is the Lions' special teams captain, and Pro-Bowl alternate, Isaiah Ekejiuba has been out all week with an knee injury in practice. He wants to come back and play for the game.
He told the Detroit Press, "I want to come back and help our team, but I am not going to put myself in jeopardy. If I don't think I am ready, I won't go." This loss may play a huge factor as Maurice Morris will be stepping in. He did a great job last week, but for someone to have to take on the leadership role that Isaiah Ekejiuba brings to the Lions, would be extremely hard to match in such a unit.
Isaiah Ekejiuba has forced a key fumble before half in the Packers game. They lost the game by two, but that field goal before half was missed. If they made it, the game would have been 29-28, instead of 28-26 (final score). He made the key block in Stefan's 105-yard touchdown. He also performed a great block in last week's game challenged by the Redskins' punt coverage team. Stefan Logan barely missed the end zone for one more time this year.
If there is a huge Jets' return on Sunday, don't be surprised because when Isaiah Ekejiuba is out, the Lion's Special Teams Unit, is completely different without him. If he does play, the Jets must find a way to double team him every time.
While this may be important for offense or defense, pay attention to Special Teams, it will be a key in the game, and may set it apart from other games because of the presence of Lions' stud, Isaiah Ekejiuba.