As the Jets host the Falcons this week, they begin a six-week stretch that includes only one road game and their bye week. The Jets have been significantly better at home, so perhaps this is what they need to get back on their feet.
This week, a struggling Falcons team that has lost three straight to AFC East foes comes into Northern New Jersey.
For the Jets, CB Buster Skrine (concussion) and RT Brandon Shell (neck) will miss the game. Skrine could really use the game off after his performance in Miami. Though he has struggled, it will be interesting to see who the Jets use to replace him and if they shift their defense without having another slot cornerback. Will Juston Burris get a shot at redemption? Could Jamal Adams spend time in the slot? Shell’s absence means Brent Qvale will again start at right tackle. It was a shaky performance for him last week. Yet again, Jordan Leggett (knee) will miss the game.
For Atlanta, LBs Duke Riley and Jordan Tripp will both miss the game.
95% - Forecasted chance of precipitation at kickoff on Sunday, elevated to 100 throughout the game. A thunderstorm is called for in the hours leading up to kickoff and into the start of the game, but is expected to lessen into showers as the game goes on.
7-6 - Matt Ryan’s current TD-INT ratio, the worst of his career so far. His interception rate of 3.0% is his highest since 2009, while his touchdown rate of 3.4% is tied for the lowest of his career.
Jets Offensive Plan
The combination of the weather and the holes on the Falcons defense makes the plan for the Jets clear. They need to win on the ground. Atlanta ranks 30th in the league in run defense DVOA, and has allowed over 115 yards on the ground in each of their three consecutive losses. One area where Atlanta has struggled in their rush defense is in the power game, on 3rd or 4th down & 3 yards to go or less. In those situations, Atlanta has gotten a stop just 13% of the time, the worst rate in the league.
The Jets should try to establish the run early before putting the football in Josh McCown’s hands too often in the beginning of the game. With all three backs healthy, it would be smart to continue spreading the touches around like they have done before. The screen game is also an area the Jets might have a chance of succeeding. One of the most difficult tasks in the rain is open-field tackling. Give Elijah McGuire and Bilal Powell the football and some room to work and let them try to make it happen.
Jets Defensive Plan
This will be a very interesting read on the Jets defense, for a variety of reasons. Everything that I wrote on the Jets run game vs. the Falcons run defense can be said about the opposite matchup. The Jets have struggled at times to stop the run this year, while the Falcons have an elite ground game. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman lead an attack that ranks 4th in yards per attempt and 6th in touchdowns.
The good news for the Jets is that the strength of the Atlanta run game plays into the strength of the Jets run defense. When the Jets have been gashed on the ground, it has been up the middle, where Demario Davis and Darron Lee have struggled to contain their gaps and in turn left plenty of daylight between the guards. The Jets rank 28th in yards per attempt allowed up the middle, but Atlanta has ran in that direction the second fewest amount of times in the league. Where the Jets have been most consistent in their run defense is on the second level, where Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, and even Morris Claiborne in particular have tackled well. The outside run has been Atlanta’s bread & butter, where the Falcons rank 3rd in attempts per game and 5th in yards per attempt. Luckily for the Jets, they have fared much better defending the outside, ranking 14th in yards per attempt allowed on outside runs.
I’m looking at the safeties and corners in particular to win this game on defense. Morris Claiborne probably isn’t going to get a lot of help against Julio Jones. That’s just not the nature of Todd Bowles’ defense. I think Claiborne has played well to this point, but Jones is a different challenge. With Matt Ryan struggling and the rain a factor, can Claiborne erase (or at least limit) the Falcons’ best bet in the passing game? With Buster Skrine out, Jamal Adams could get even more coverage opportunities, while Juston Burris might get back into the action. As mentioned before, the style of the Falcons run game will leave a lot of responsibility to the DBs and edge defenders. If the Jets can contain the outside runs and do enough to limit Julio Jones, they should be able to hold the Falcons offense to a reasonably low number at a sloppy MetLife Stadium.
Offense: Bilal Powell
Powell’s skillset gives him the best chance at making things happen in Sunday’s conditions. He has the balance, speed, and vision to keep the ball moving forward on a slippery field. If the run game, and Powell in particular, can’t get much going, they’re going to have to rely on Josh McCown in the rain. That’s not playing the odds in your favor.
Defense: Morris Claiborne
Claiborne will be on an island with one of the best receivers to ever do it. Whether or not Claiborne can limit Jones will be a major factor in the productivity of the Falcons offense. Matt Ryan has struggled of late, and especially with the rain in play could look to lean on his top receiver even more than usual. The Jets defense is going to live and die by Claiborne this week.
Bonus Thought: Do things ever go as expected in football? Two weeks ago, the Jets had no pass rush against Tom Brady but held the Pats to just 24 points thanks to a strong game from the secondary, even though a sleeping front was eaten up on the ground by a rushing attack that came in with average numbers.
One week later, the Jets took on a Dolphins team boasting a strong run game and a nonexistent passing attack. The Jets front seven goes berserk and shuts down the run, but they still give up 31 points because the secondary (Buster Skrine?) plays awfully. Against Matt Moore and Jay Cutler.
With all that in mind, we should probably be expecting a 49-42 shootout this Sunday.