3TFO: Jets @ Titans, Week 15
I’m not going to lie to you guys, this is not a Monday Night Football game for the ages. It’s ugly. It’s a game between two teams that have very little business being in prime time this late into the season, but in a couple months we’ll all be crying into our drinks at the lack of football on Sundays, so make the most of it while you can and try and find the good in this game!
Like any NFL game there are things to watch for, a few select matchups that are worth checking out even if the bigger picture doesn’t inspire much excitement. So let’s take a look beyond the record and into some of those intriguing matchups and interesting players to have a look at… I promise, there are some good ones.
Antonio Cromartie vs. All Comers
When Revis was lost for the year, everybody expected the Jets’ defense to fall away, but in truth they have been slightly better against the pass this season than last, and it’s thanks in large part to the play of Antonio Cromartie who has relished the opportunity to step up and remind people that he was once an alpha dog in coverage. Cromartie has been locking receivers down this season and has some of the better coverage numbers league-wide. He was our fourth-ranked CB in coverage heading into this week and the Jets have been using him to track receivers in much the same way as they would use Revis when he is healthy. None of the Titans’ receivers have established themselves over any consistent period of time, and it will be interesting to see if the Jets deem any of them worthy of special treatment with Cromartie shadowing anybody all game long.
Though he has been excellent all year, Cromartie does have lapses, and has been beaten for four touchdowns this season, two fewer than last year, but a mark that still separates him from the truly elite players at his position.
Jurrell Casey vs. The Jets Interior
The Jets need to be able to run the football, and are at their best when the offensive line is at its best, and consequently the running game has some legs. That allows them to take some pressure off Mark Sanchez, and keep the defense off the field and rested. The Titans have been able to get some great play against the run from DT Jurrell Casey, and heading into this week he trailed only Geno Atkins against the run for DTs in terms of grade, on 70 fewer snaps. The Jets line has been up and down this season in terms of performance but Nick Mangold in particular has been feast or famine this season. He either has games where he dominated people or he is getting very little done. He has four games over +4.0 in grade, but he also has a -2.7, a -6.1, and five more games that are under +1.0 on his season resume. RG Brandon Moore has been in much better form recently, grading in the green in each of his last six outings after failing to do so in any of his first seven.
LG has become a rotation for the Jets with Matt Slauson now ceding snaps to Vlad Ducasse despite Slauson actually playing his best football in recent weeks. How Casey gets on against this interior will go a long way towards dictating how much running room the Jets can find and therefore how much falls on the shoulders of Sanchez in the passing game.
Derek Morgan vs. Austin Howard
Remember the days of Wayne Hunter at RT for the Jets? Sanchez sure does, and I can promise you not fondly, but after some early struggles Austin Howard has actually rounded into some very impressive play at that spot. He has surrendered six sacks this season but none in his last three games, and those three outings featured a total of just three hurries given up, not to mention some fine run blocking. He was also clean in penalties as well over that time. Howard is going to see a lot of Derrick Morgan who has quietly been having himself a fine season for the Titans at DLE.
Morgan is currently our sixth-ranked 4-3 DE, with an impressive 57 total pressures over 412 pass-rushing snaps this year. That rate of pressure is good enough to rank fourth at his position with a Pass Rushing Productivity score of 10.9, and is bettered by three players all getting paid with monster contracts. Howard has had a fine run of form in recent weeks but Morgan is the kind of player that will put that to the test, even if his impressive year seems to be flying under the radar nationally. Let’s see which guy can get the better of the exchange.
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