Where Each Team Is
The Panthers are a southern version of the Jets, if the Jets could score or had a balanced, consistent defense. Carolina and New York are the first and second top rushing defense teams in the NFL, respectively. The Panthers and Jets both struggle with a weak receiver set and offensive identity in general. The principal difference is Cam Newton, who in spite of receiving a large amount of criticism for his regression since his rookie season, has passed for 20 touchdowns and run for 6 more to Jets quarterback Geno Smith's 9 passing and 4 rushing touchdowns.
To badly paraphrase my boss John B: "The Panthers do everything the Jets do well and a few things they don't." Both teams are top ten rushing offenses and top 2 rushing defenses. Carolina is the best scoring defense in the NFL, the Jets are one of the absolute worst. Carolina is an average scoring offense, the Jets are next to last. The Jets are ranked 24th against the pass, the Panthers are ranked 5th.
If there is any hope to salvage it is that the Jets have done remarkably well against both winning opponents and teams from the NFC South this year, including the New Orleans Saints who handily beat the Panthers last week.
Random Fact: Vinny Testaverde has a recurring nightmare where Tom Jones' "What's New, Pussycat?" plays on loop forever.
Sister Site: Cat Scratch Reader
Location: Bank of America Stadium
Field: Open air, Natural Grass.
Weather: Windy, clouds breaking, a high of 54 degrees.
Record: Jets lead the all-time series, 3-2.
Who is favored? SBNation reports that Carolina is favored by 12.5 points at home.
Random Fact: North Carolina is the largest annual receiver of interstate refugees escaping the brutal tourist trap known as "South of the Border."
(Players designated "Probable" status are omitted)
Out: Stephen Hill (WR) Knee.
Questionable: Antonio Cromartie (CB) Hip.
Out: Jonathan Stewart (RB) Knee.
Random Fact: Jets and Panthers don't naturally compete in the wild.
Jets: On offense the Jets are a disgusting 31st in points scored and from week to week are consistent in their inability to find an opponents end zone. If it weren't for the leg of Nick Folk the Jets would indisputably be the worst scoring offense of 2013.. New York is 30th in overall yardage per game (a ten team slide in rankings in three weeks), also 30th in passing and 11th on the ground. The Jets have been knocked out of the top ten rushing attack teams, making them consistently one of the worst offenses in the league.
The Jets defense is a mixed performer. The Jets are 2nd in run defense, only ranking behind this weeks opponent: The Panthers. The Jets have held strong as one of the leagues top run defenses for the entirety of the 2013-14 season. The Jets are also strong in overall defense, sitting at 11th. The Jets have improved as a scoring defense in the last several weeks, rising to 23rd in the league. The Jets have also improved from a bottom-ranked pass defense, rising to 24th in rankings.
Panthers: On offense the Panthers are 17th in points scored, 26th in total yardage, 29th in pass yards and 9th in rushing yards. The Panthers offense is particularly bad looking on paper but the Jets offense still pales in comparison.
Defensively the Panthers are arguably far and away the best and most consistent defense in the NFL. On defense, the Panthers are 1st in points allowed, 2nd in overall yards allowed, 5th in passing yards allowed, and 1st against the run. Compared to any other team in the NFL, the Panthers have the least weaknesses out of any defense in the league.
AP Pro ranking has the Jets ranked 19th and the Panthers ranked 6th.
Random Fact: I saw a guy wearing a Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket yesterday. I didn't have the heart to break it to him that the 90's have been over for a while.
(Submit your random facts to @JeffreyJParks on Twitter or via email, or just post them in the Thread About Nothing for a chance to win prizes I'll probably never send you. This weeks prizes are a slice of pizza I didn't finish and one of those old Treasure Troll toys with the hair ripped out)
Attacking the Panthers
Good luck. The Panthers are the single greatest defensive unit in the NFL. In spite of what Panthers fans and beat writers would have you believe, Carolina is the fifth best pass defense in the league. On GGN Live this week, Cat Scratch Reader claimed the success of the Panthers secondary is almost entirely due to their front seven getting big pressure in the backfield, and denounced their secondary as weak (apparently Santonio Holmes shares these sentiments). While the Jets should not abandon the run, they are going to have to connect through the air if they hope to win this game. This means Geno Smith will have to exploit what is at least ranked as a top five secondary.
Dee Milliner. I called his name a thousand times this season along with Cromartie as a make-or-break the team type of player, and it has held true. Besides Geno's capable play last week, the biggest difference in the Raiders victory was that Milliner was capably covering his assignments, and he broke up a critical play in the end zone. Cromartie is uncertain and has been hobbled and under-performing all year, and is questionable. This means potentially more of Ellis Lankster and Darrin Walls. I think you have to examine that these players are behind an injured Cro on the depth chart for a reason and will not be the answer fans are hoping for. A lot of Jets faithful are saying that the secondary play can't be any worse than Cromartie is right now, and I think those people are in for a rude awakening.
Panthers to Watch
DeAngelo Williams might not be the fantasy stud he once was, but he and Steve Smith still carry a lot of the Panthers offensive production. Cam Newton is a huge scoring threat through the air and on the ground. Mike Tolbert has been productive as well this season and figures to see an increased workload as relief back Jonathan Stewart will continue to sit with an injury. Greg Olsen is arguably one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Ted Ginn Jr., also referred to as the "Jet killer" for his productive games against the Jets, is a highly underrated receiving threat who is both a scoring threat and a special teams beast on returns. Brandon LaFell is quietly having a productive year and is behind only Smith and Olsen in statistical production.
Luke Kuechly is the teams leading tackler and one of the best young defenders in the NFL. Thomas Davis has fought back from THREE ACL injuries and is having a ridiculously disruptive season in opposing teams backfields. Charles Johnson leads the team with 9 sacks, and the Panthers have 41 sacks combined on the year. Mike Mitchell, Robert Lester, Drayton Florence, Quintin Mikell; and Captain Munnerlyn all have multiple turnovers on the season. This defense is DEEP.
Bro's Bottom Line
While I have a hard time envisioning the Jets beating the Panthers, I couldn't really have seen NY beating the New Orleans Saints or New England Patriots either, but they did. The only top-ranked team the Jets have fared very poorly against this season was the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets have multiple victories over common opponents that have defeated the Panthers.
Simply put, Geno Smith has to turn the corner and become a viable and consistent QB in this game against the Panthers top ranked defense if the Jets are to remain in contention this year. Stranger things have happened, especially this season, but temper your expectations.
J!-E!-T!-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!!!
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