3TFO: Jets @ Falcons, Week 5
The New York Jets travel to Atlanta for this week’s Monday night showcase. The Jets come in at 2-2 after a blowout loss on the road to the Titans. In fact, the Jets are yet to win a road game this year. The Falcons check in at 1-3 after a late comeback came up short against the Patriots. They are already three games behind the Saints in the NFC south.
The Jets’ offense has been struggling to move the ball consistently. The running game and injuries haven’t helped (both Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes could miss this game). Geno Smith has been impressive at times, and a rookie at others. He throws a solid deep ball, as his 12 completions down the field have netted a league-leading 433 yards, but he does have three interceptions on these throws as well. The Jets also have some veterans under-performing, which I’ll go into later.
The Falcons are trying to regroup and do it quickly. Many had the Falcons picked as NFC south champs and even Super Bowl contenders. Matt Ryan has been solid. He’s third in our accuracy percentage statistic at 78.4%, and has a +10.9 passing grade on the season. He trails only Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in these two categories. He’s still getting help from Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, but his offensive line has struggled to protect him. The Falcons are also struggling with pass coverage as they have a -14.8 team grade (29th in the league). Below, I take a look at a couple matchups that could decide this game.
Jets front vs. Falcons O-line.
The Falcons had been starting the two worst rated tackles in the league (Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker) the first few weeks. They have since added Jeremy Trueblood to the fold. He has been an upgrade but is still toward the middle of the pack with a 93.6% Pass Block Efficiency grade (42nd ranked out of all tackles). The Falcons need improvement out of the tackle position to have any kind of consistency. Thus far the falcons 69.1% PBE is 29th in the league.
The Jets, on the other hand, have the potential to field the best three-man front in the league. Sheldon Richardson leads our PFF Race for Rookie of the Year with a +8.3 grade, including +10.5 against the run. Nose tackle Damon Harrison has dominated against the run with a DT/NT leading +11.8 grade. Strangely the one holding this group back is Muhammad Wilkerson. After dominating last year (easily our second-highest graded 3-4 DE at +49.1), he has had a pedestrian year so far with an even 0.0 grade. The Jets have a +38.9 team run defense grade, easily the highest in the league and they allow only 3 yards per carry. If Wilkerson can start dominating again this front alone has the ability to take over this game and be a even more of handful as the season progresses.
Julio Jones/Roddy White vs. Antonio Cromartie
Julio Jones has taken the reins as Matt Ryan’s go-to receiver. He has 33 catches for 481 yards and two TDs, and is averaging 2.86 yards per pass route run which is second in the league. Roddy White is banged up and has a negative grade so far this year — he hasn’t graded out negatively since he’s been in the league. The Falcons are hoping White can fully regain his previous form this year before it’s too late. If he can it will take some pressure off of Jones, Ryan, and the Falcons’ offense in general.
Another underachieving Jets defender is CB Antonio Cromartie. His -7.1 coverage grade is third from the bottom. Quarterbacks have a healthy 105.6 rating when throwing his way. All this despite Cromartie coming off a year in which he ranked fifth out of all CBs in coverage, had three picks, and allowed a 69.7 QB rating when the ball was thrown his way. He is going to be charged with the task of matching up with Jones or White, or both, throughout the game. If Cromartie can snap out of this slump, he can limit some of the Falcons playmakers and give the Jets pass defense a much needed boost.
Can the Jets Run the Ball?
The Jets could be without their top two starting receivers on Monday night. The passing game has already been erratic, and the team need some of the veterans on the offensive line to come together and at least get this unit to respectability. It wasn’t long ago the Jets had one of the better run blocking units in the league. So far this year, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Willie Colon, and Nick Mangold have a combined – 12.4 PFF run blocking grade. This contributes to the overall -19 grade from the team (29th in the league). If the Jets can get any big plays out of the running game it will lighten the load on Smith and allow him to throw the ball down the field with even more effectiveness.
The Falcons have a slightly below average run defense (21st ranked by our team grades) and have lost some key players due to injury. Peria Jerry, Jonathan Babineaux, and Akeem Dent have all struggled to negative run grades. Jopolo Bartu has been a bright spot as an undrafted rookie, and is fourth among all OLBs with a +3.7 run grade so far. Corey Peters has also been solid with 11 stops in the run game. With Geno’s top receivers being out, shutting down the Jets’ run game will be key for a Falcons win.
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