Breaking Down the Jets vs the Seahawks
A win is a win is a win, and someone upstairs really must like the Jets for them to get that win last week. The Jets were a team pressing these last two weeks and maybe now that they have that monkey off their back they can get back to playing good football again. With only two games left in the season there is very little margin for error as the Jets head back into the nightmare known as the West Coast for a game against the 3-11, but always game, Seattle Seahawks.
Jets Defense vs. Seahawks Offense
It has simply been a horrible season for Seattle on offense. From day 1 the offense was decimated with injuries and the injuries have continued to plague them all year. First it was the wide receivers. Then the quarterback. Then the offensive line. Then the quarterback again. When you deal with shuffling so many players in and out of the lineup like that you will never find any continuity or flow on offense and that is where the Seahawks offense, ranked 28th in yards and 25th in points scored, has found itself this season. Seneca Wallace will get the start at QB and be expected to try to pick apart the Jets secondary. Wallace has been very up and down this season, but has played pretty well these last two weeks and had his team in a position to beat both New England and St. Louis. Wallace is an athletic player that has been able to buy himself some time in the pocket by running around escaping from the pass rush. He has a decent arm and has done his best to play mistake free football this year, only throwing one interception this season. Wallace is at his worst when under pressure. His height makes it hard for him to see and throw over the rush and it is no surprise that his games against the Eagles, Buccaneers, and Dolphins were his worst of the year. Even the Rams last week completely shut him down for one half when they knocked him around so badly for 30 minutes that he was seen yelling at his teammates on the offensive line to do a better job. The offensive line has been a disaster for Seattle. LT Walter Jones was lost for the season and now they may have lost their backup Sean Locklear as well. He will be a game time decision. It is a line filled with players playing out of position and giving the team very little productivity. It is imperative for Seattle to get their running game going and they will likely give the majority of carries to Maurice Morris as their head coach likes to play the “hot hand” and Morris is more productive than Thomas Jones’ brother Julius, who has effective been benched. Morris is a career backup that has a habit of producing in spot duty, but has rarely shown the ability to do it consistently in the NFL. The Seahawks wideouts have been miserable all year. They have some of the worst hands in the NFL and are never on the same page as their QB. Bobby Engrams career looks to be finished and Koren Robinson is just simply not productive. Deion Branch has had two good games in a row and is being used for some deep passes to keep the defense honest. He has been a disappointment since leaving New England, but he is the best WR the Seahawks have. The biggest threat in the Seattle offense is TE John Carlson, who ranks right up there with the Jets Dustin Keller for most impressive rookie at the position. Carlson has had three big games in a row and is one of the most important pieces in the offense.
There just is not much left to say positive about the Jets defense, except that they found a way to make a play when they had to last week. The signs are all negative right now. Two of the last three games have seen a new problem develop and that is controlling the line of scrimmage in the run game. The Denver Broncos and now the Buffalo Bills have run all over the Jets defense. The Bills just lined up and overpowered the Jets line, the first team to do so all year. The defensive line looks tired, especially nose tackle Kris Jenkins, a fact alluded to by the head coach this week. Without Jenkins playing at a pro bowl level the Jets have begun to resemble the team that took the field in 2006 and 2007, something that just can not happen for a team trying to make the playoffs. The poor tackling has returned and is major cause for alarm now. The team is using terrible technique and trying to bring guys down around their shoulder pads rather than low around the waist. The arm tackles are not getting the job done and everyone just looks a step slow on the field which has eliminated the gang tackling seen early this season. Opponents are breaking off big plays every time the Jets screw up a tackle. The defense must do a better job against Morris this week to take him right out of the football game. If he starts running well it will change any type of pass rush the team could possibly muster up. The Jets secondary will have another test this week as they face a team that likes to pass the football. Darrelle Revis got his first pro bowl nod and will look to shut down Branch. How the Jets cover Carlson might decide the game. They have no answer for that position and the Seahawks will try and exploit it as much as possible. One thing that works in the Jets favor is that the Seahawk receivers dont do a good job catching the football. This was a huge factor in the game against the Titans and should allow the Jets to focus on different areas of the field than they normally do. That may slow down a player like Carlson and keep the running game in check.
The last thing the Jets can allow this week is for Wallace to get into a groove early in the game and give him the confidence to beat the Jets up. This is what happened when the team took on Shaun Hill out in San Francisco. Once he felt a level of comfort in the pocket he never looked back. These types of players, career backups trying to make a splash, always show flashes when the defense plays with the assumption that they will make a mistake because they disguised a coverage scheme or simply because they should not be starting an NFL game. This has been the Jets philosophy all year and more often than not it has come back to haunt them. With the Seahawks line in disarray the Jets need to come out and unleash whatever rush they have on Wallace, start knocking him around, and force the mistakes. When the Jets take chances they make plays. They caused two fumbles and an intentional grounding penalty off rushes last week. Calvin Pace, who played very well against the Bills, needs to be given the ok to forget coverage and just attack. The team can use their inside linebackers to blitz from time to time and the secondary blitzes are always effective when they use them. The Jets also have to be extra aware of Wallace’s legs and not allow him to break containment behind the line of scrimmage and turn a loss into a 40 yard pass ala Jay Cutler. Keeping the middle of the field clogged up is a must. Opposing QBs have run all over the Jets deep defense this year, something we saw again last week when JP Losman walked in for a TD. If Wallace is given the chance to run he will and the Jets will be in for a long afternoon if that happens.
Jets Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
The Seattle defense has played slightly better of late, only allowing more than 24 points twice in the last 7 weeks. Seattle has a hard time stopping the pass. Their cornerbacks are terrible and there is no depth if teams spread them out. Seattle ranks right near the bottom of the NFL in interceptions and rarely are able to defend anything thrown their way. Their best players in the secondary are probably the safeties on the team, none of whom will scare the opposing Qbs. The secondary isn’t helped by the fact that the Seahawks will take chances on defense to try to hit the QB. They will come on blitzes from the secondary and will bring heat from their linebackers especially Julian Peterson, who has 5 sacks on the year. The defense has not escaped the injury bug. LB Leroy Hill will miss the game and backup DD Lewis is also nursing an injury. That means Lofa Tatupu will have even more responsibility this week. Tatupu has had a down season and been unable to make the impact plays he has made in the past, but has to be considered a dangerous player. The front four present a formidable enough line of defense. DE Darryl Tapp is a decent run stopper and pass rusher while defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Rocky Bernard make a good tandem plugging the middle and getting into the backfield. The overall run defense is somewhat underrated. They give up yards, but that is often teams running out the clock from being two scores up. Teams that can out physical the Seahawks linemen and pick up the linebackers are the teams that have had big success running the ball. They are sometimes susceptible to the big play if you can get a runner through the line and past Tatupu.
So what Jets offense shows up this time? The one that played the first 30 minutes last week or the one that stunk up the football field for the last 30 minutes? Consistency has been a problem all year and the Jets need the offense to produce this week if they want to win. It is evident at this point in the year that the passing offense is not a strength of the team. For whatever reason Brett Favre is just unable to get the football down the field anymore and everytime he is throwing it deep he is getting it picked off. The Jets receivers just do not look right and everyone seems to be having some problems catching the football. Laveranues Coles dropped two key passes last week and Keller has had some drops as well. Jerricho Cotchery has almost become an afterthought with only 84 receiving yards in the last 3 games. The Jets need Cotchery to step up and start getting open. The one consistent theme is that the Jets have quickly abandoned the run in games where they get down by a score early in the game. If you go back and look at the most disappointing showings of the year- Kansas City, Oakland, Buffalo, Denver, and San Francisco--Thomas Jones has almost been a non thought. Despite gaining big yards the Jets will give him only a handful of rushes while trying to pass all over the field. Teams still respect Favre’s arm and will allow the Jets to run and right now the Jets need Jones to open the game for Favre and the receivers. The Jets have to smack the Seahawks early and make their players play up at the line even more than before. Once the Jets show a dedication to the run it will change the coverages and it will allow the receivers more of a cushion to get off the line.
The offensive line is going to play a vital role this week. They will set the tone in the running game and are going to have to stop the blitz and some big guys on the inside from getting to Favre. Alan Faneca, who has been very up and down in pass protection, and Brandon Moore need to really be aware of everything going on. If they give Favre the time he should be able to pick the defense apart and rebuild his confidence. Getting Leon Washington a few touches would be a good idea as well. Washington is explosive and he can get a big scoring run if the Jets catch the Seahawks in the wrong defense. Setting Washington up for a screen where the team just gives Peterson a free run at the QB could also do some good. Washington in free space is very hard to grab onto. The Jets need to score 27 points if they want to be safe this week. The Seahawks have only scored more than 24 points once in their last 11 games and will likely be close to that number again this week.
What a mess for the Jets. Outside of Washington returning kicks and Jay Feely kicking field goals the Jets are a mess. Twice this year they have been hurt by fake punts. Multiple times this year they have given up huge kick returns. Their punter Reggie Hodges could not down the ball inside the 20 if his life depended on it and he is actually turning out to be a downgrade from Ben Graham. The Jets need to be prepared for every trick in the book when they play Seattle. Teams that have nothing to play for will try the fake punts and onside kicks. Those are momentum changers especially on the road.
Seattle brings two kickers with big legs to the games. Jon Ryan is averaging 46 yards per punt while Olindo Mare has 20 touchbacks and can hit field goals from 50+ with no problems. When they do not cause the fair catch, though, they have a miserable time stopping kick returns. Washington could have a big kick returns this week, but the Jets have to make sure to avoid the costly holding calls that are plaguing them. Josh Wilson and Justin Forsett are both good return men and the Jets need to be very cautious with both of them. Neither has scored this year, but both have had some big returns.
Mike Holmgren is coaching his last two games with the team as he is headed for supposed retirement after next weeks game. Holmgren is certainly familiar with the Jets QB and should know every way to stop him, though he has only posted a 2-4 record against Favre including the playoffs. Holmgren has done a very good job of keeping his team who has been a perennial playoff team from quitting on the year. It would have been very easy to do, especially considering the fact that he is cutting ties with the Sehakws after the season, but he has kept his team working hard and embracing the role of being a spoiler.
Eric Mangini has not done anything to quiet the critics since his huge win against the Titans. His inability to get the team up for these games against inferior competition is puzzling. These teams are often desperate for a win and he should know that as well as anyone after seeing how his team gave it their all when they were outclassed in 2007, but gave teams like the Patriots and Steelers all they could handle when they failed to put the Jets away. When you let these teams hang around they gain confidence and give you a battle, and right now the Jets need a breather and not a battle. Mangini has been awful against the West this year and wanted to take his team a day later than normal in hopes of shocking their system and getting a win. A convincing performance will take the heat off Mangini for a week.
The Jets just look like a tired team. When you look around at the roster you realize they do not have many battle tested players that are used to having to put this kind of effort out for 17 weeks. Most of the Jets have only been involved in one playoff chase in their careers and that chase in 2006 had zero expectations and an easy path. Player like Pace were usually planning their vacations right now and this is a new situation to those types. If ever there was a time for the veteran leadership like Favre and Faneca to step up and drill it into the players how you have to dig down deeper to win these games it’s now. If the Jets come out flat again this week it is a very bad sign about the leadership on the team.
Anyone expecting Seattle to lie down because they beat the Rams last week or because they only have 3 wins is going to be surprised. Teams are looking forward to playing the Jets now because the Jets are in a race and they are looked at as an easy opponent to upset. Five of Seattle’s last six games have been decided by six points or less and in each of those games Seattle had a chance to win or tie the game late in the fourth quarter. When you combine that with the Jets play down approach and terrible defense this has all the makings of another game decided in the last five minutes of the game, especially if the weather is bad in Seattle.
If the Jets truly do not care about winning the division and only care about having a shot at the playoffs this is not the most important game in the world. If Baltimore loses on Saturday night the Jets will likely control their own destiny in week 17 win or lose in Seattle. But the team should want to win the division and get a home game in the playoffs and avoid having to go on the road in the playoffs to match up with the Patriots. They can ensure that chance by winning a game this week.
The Jets have not shown any ability to win squeakers against bad teams on the road this year, so they are either going to win by double digits or lose a close game. Until they show something resembling the Titan effort you can not feel good about their chances.
Jets 20 Seahawks 24