The 6-5 New York Jets travel to the nation’s capital to take on the 4-7 Washington Redskins. Both field quarterbacks who are as likely to amaze as they are to horrify, and both are coming off close wins.
The Jets saved their postseason hopes with a comeback against the divisional rival Buffalo Bills, who were previously viewed as contenders themselves before falling into a losing streak. Meanwhile, the Redskins, despite being all but out of playoff contention, managed to beat the Seattle Seahawks and their infamous “12th man” home field advantage with a fourth-quarter rally.
The only meeting between these two teams for the next four years has several interesting storylines. Several of them are illustrated below, but it’s also worth noting that Washington CB DeAngelo Hall and Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan have a little bit of history. These two teams played in the preseason last year, which was being filmed by HBO for their “Hard Knocks” series, and, despite Hall picking off a Sanchez pass, the camera caught Ryan chewing out the Pro Bowl DB for his lack of physicality. Hall played for Rex’s brother Rob for the Oakland Raiders in 2008 before being cut. Would it surprise anyone if these two outspoken personalities exchanged words at some point during this game? It would no doubt be entertaining.
Liabilities on Both Sides
When Rex Grossman and Mark Sanchez take the field, the question isn’t “Will they turn the ball over?” but “When and how many times will they turn the ball over?” The two have each turned the ball over 16 times via interceptions and lost fumbles. Thats 16 times a potential scoring drive has ended and 16 times opposing teams have had extra chances to score.
Some recent shocking examples: at 3:51 left in the second quarter of a tie game last week, throwing from his own end zone, Sanchez failed to make note of the Safety in the middle of the field, who’s presence allowed Drayton Florence to undercut Santonio Holmes’ post route for the pick that set up a Buffalo TD. At 12:06 in the fourth quarter of the Miami game, Grossman, down 9-13 but at Miami’s 10-yard-line, stared-down Jabar Gaffney over the middle, resulting in Karlos Dansby picking off his pass and helping ensure the ‘Skins another loss.
The similarities between these two don’t stop there. Neither responds to pressure well, with Sanchez’s 90.7 NFL passer rating duress-free dropping to 44.8 when the pressure gets there and Grossman’s 87.1 passer rating falling to 48.8 when he feels the heat. These numbers are interestingly close, and this game could turn on either signal-caller’s ability to buck the trends.
Brian Orakpo vs. D’Brickashaw Ferguson
One of the best matchups to watch is left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a former fourth overall pick, versus outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, a 13th overall pick. Ferguson is ranked as our 12th-best pass-protecting tackle, while Orakpo is our third-best 3-4 pass-rushing OLB. Although Freguson (+4.3) has been decidedly above-average for much of the season, he’s had his two worst games (and only games graded in red) in the past three weeks. In those two games, he gave up two sacks to Andre Carter and another to Elvis Dumervil, not to mention a combined two QB hits and six pressures. While Orakpo (+17.2 overall and +20.0 pass rush grade) could only muster one pressure against the respectable Doug Free two weeks ago, he hasn’t graded red at all this year and is coming off his best game of the season. He tormented Russell Okung for a sack and six pressures; most of that coming in the final quarter with the game on the line.
Fred Davis vs. Eric Smith
Most of you remember Jets’ Safety Eric Smith for losing contain on Tim Tebow’s game-winning TD run in Denver, but Jets’ fans no doubt also know Smith as a liability in coverage. Ranked as our 10th-worst safety in coverage (-5.9), Smith has mostly been burned by tight ends. On 23 targets to TEs, he’s allowed 17 catches for 266 yards and a TD, which doesn’t even include a TD catch by Antonio Gates where he failed to properly help over-matched LB Josh Mauga in the corner of the end zone. Not surprisingly, Smith earned the dubious honor of being on the “Had a Bad Day” Team in back-to-back weeks very recently.
The Redskins will hope to get up-and-comer Fred Davis (+7.7 receiving) matched-up with Smith. Davis has had his issues – his run blocking (-9.1) drags down his overall grade and is ninth-worst in our rankings among TEs, he had a costly fumble in the second Dallas game, and committed an unsportsmanlike penalty last week after making a play – but has become a dangerous weapon, ranking fifth in receiving among TEs. He’s also scored three times and proven slippery in the open field, forcing eight missed tackles (tied with two others for second best in the league among TEs) and collecting 311 yards after the catch, which is third only to superstars Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. With their top wide-out Santana Moss likely locked down for much of this contest by Darrelle Revis, the Redskins will be looking even more at Davis, especially if he finds himself one-on-one with Smith.