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Week 16: New York Jets (9-5) at Seattle Seahawks (3-11)

The Jets travel to the Pacific Northwest this weekend for a matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. Gang Green is two wins away from an AFC East title. That seven game Playoff discussed on this site last week is now a six week Playoff. Last week's effort against Buffalo may not have been pretty, but the result was what the team desperately needed, a win. Perhaps winning in such dramatic fashion will be the spark this club needs to get going again.

Storyline:

This is Mike Holmgren's last season in Seattle. It has been a forgettable one, but his team is likely to come out fired up to make its coach's final memory in Seattle a happy one. The coach led this franchise to its only Super Bowl in 2005. When coupled with two other trips to the big game and one win in Green Bay, Holmgren could end up in Canton one day. His final home game will be against the quarterback who put him on the map, Brett Favre. The Favre-Holmgren partnership produced lasting memories in Green Bay. Favre has more on the line, but the two icons stand in the way of a happy ending at the end of both of their careers.

Scouting Report:

Seattle will miss the Playoffs for the first time since 2002 and not win the NFC West for the first time since 2003. This team may have had its season derailed by injuries worse than any other since the 2005 Jets. Starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been banged up all year long. Stalwart left tackle Walter Jones is done for the year. Joining him on IR are guards Walter Sims and Mike Wahle and center Chris Spencer. The other tackle, Sean Locklear, is out for this contest as well. The best pass rusher on the roster, Patrick Kerney is on injured reserve. To put it simply, this team has been decimated. Eleven Seahawks currently call IR home.

Seneca Wallace will likely be under center for the Seahawks in Hasselbeck's place. While he does not turn the ball over, sporting an 8 to 1 touchdown to interception rate, his accuracy leaves something to be desired. Wallace is hitting only 56% of his passes. His best throw is the deep ball, not exactly an ideal situation for a team running the West Coast offense. The Jets have been killed on underneath routes this season, but Wallace might not be able to exploit the blown coverages on crossing routes. Then again, any high school quarterback can pick apart the Jets linebackers in coverage on a bad day.

Rookie John Carlson is the top target on the team. The tight end has pulled in 51 catches for 601 yards. He is 16 receptions clear of anybody else. The fact the starting tight end has done so much is an indication of how shaky the passing game has been. Guess one of the root causes. It is injuries. Seattle actually has a decent receiving corp. It is much like that of the Jets. There are no game breakers, but there are numerous above average wideouts. Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Deion Branch, and Koren Robinson have missed a combined 28 games. Burleson is on you guessed it, injured reserve. Robinson has a sore knee. Engram and Branch should be in the lineup, giving Seattle a chance to dink and dunk the Jets to death.

Julius Jones and Maurice Morris comprise Seattle's running game. Shaun Alexander is gone after looking washed up for the better part of two years. Both Jones and Morris are adept between the tackles and carry averages of over 4.4 yards per carry into the contest. However, they will have a patchwork line in front of them on Sunday. T.J. Duckett sees time in short yardage situations.

The Seahawks are firmly entrenched on the bottom half of the league in most major defensive categories. Kerney has been missed. His five sacks in seven games still ties him for the team lead. It is worth noting, however, that seven Seattle defenders have at least a pair of sacks. They are giving up almost 120 yards per game on the ground. The linebacker corps is solid, led by Lofa Tutupu, Leroy Hill and Julian Peterson, which makes it appear the men up front are not doing the job. Further compounding things is that Hill is banged up (shocker!) and could sit the game out. Seattle has the worst pass defense in the league statistically. Marcus Trufant, Dan Grant, Kelly Jennings and Brian Russell have not played up to standards.

Former Dolphin Olindo Mare is Seattle's kicker. He has been solid, not missing once from inside 40 all year. Jon Ryan, the punter, has an average over 46. Josh Wilson and Justin Forsett man an unspectacular return game.

Key Matchup: Seneca Wallace vs. The Conditions

It is no secret what Mike Holmgren likes to do. His offense is based on short, timing routes. The Jets have been killed on short passes underneath all year long and have been brutal in covering tight ends. Plays will probably be there for Seattle's quarterback. The question is whether he can do what is necessary in order to exploit it. There will be a challenge as Seattle will likely be experiencing a winter storm at kickoff. If he can stay mechanically sound and deliver the ball in the right spots, Seattle will move the ball and have a chance to pull the upset.

Keys to Victory:

1. Pound It: The Jets have a great rushing attack, perhaps the best in football. Their defense has also been a major liability recently. Seattle cannot stop the run. If the Jets run the ball, they will stay on the field and keep their defense off it. This is a team built for cold weather.

2. Scale Things Back: With the snowstorm coming, the Jets should probably avoid gadget plays. They are difficult enough to pull off in good conditions. In bad weather, even the simplest plays can go haywire, like the botched pitch to Jerricho Cotchery against Denver. The Jets might as well not put anything on tape for Miami next week anyway.

3. Go After Wallace: We know that the Jets cannot cover anybody on pass routes. They need to get to the quarterback. It may be risky, if this team's blitzes are not effective against a team with a line this bad, Gang Green is going home in January early anyway.

4. Give Murrell Time: Bryan Thomas might as well be on a milk carton at this point of the year. The Jets should give Marques Murrell at least a handful of snaps at outside linebacker. He might be able to generate more of a pass rush.

5. Be Ready: The Jets came out sluggish in their last West Coast trip to San Francisco two weeks ago. The Seahawks are still playing hard. They won last week and nearly upset New England two weeks ago. Their home crowd is one of the league's loudest, and everybody in that stadium will be fired up to win Holmgren one last home game.

Reasons to Fear:

This is a new feature for game previews. Since the Jets do poorly when I pick them, and I do not want to pick against them in games they should win, I will keep my tone negative by listing things that should scare fans, hopefully helping the Jets play better. There is also something poetic about Jets fans fearing the worst will happen because it usually does.

  • A snowstorm is expected at kickoff. Brett Favre seems to dislike bad weather in his old age. His last two games against the elements were last year's NFC Championship Game and the Denver game Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Jay Feely missed three field goals in this stadium in an overtime loss while he was with the Giants in 2005.
  • College teams usually come up with big efforts on Senior Day, the last home game of any season. Everybody wants the seniors to remember winning their last game. The same concept applies to Holmgren.
  • The Jets are 0-3 in the Pacific Time Zone this season. The long trips seem to affect this team.