On Sunday the New York Jets (6-7) face a stiff road challenge as they take on the Carolina Panthers (9-4) at Bank of America Stadium (4:05 EST). The Jets are trying to build off of a home victory over the Raiders while the Panthers will be looking to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to the Saints. A loss for Gang Green would essentially eliminate the team's chances to make the post season.
Creative game plan- Statistically the Carolina Panthers have one of the best defenses in the National Football League. The Panthers are 1st against the run, 5th against the pass, 1st in points allowed, and 2nd in yards allowed. This will no doubt be an uphill battle for the Jets struggling offense. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg must find a way to keep the Panthers defense off balance in order to get Geno Smith comfortable. The last thing you want to see on Sunday is for the offensive line to get dominated early on and Smith running for his life. The Jets could look to pound the rock with Chris Ivory or use the quick passing game with Jeremy Kerley. Which ever way New York plans on attacking the Panther defense it better not be ultra conservative as that will be a recipe for the Jets to get blown out of the building.
Max protect- As with most games the battles in the trenches dictates the success of the offense. The New York Jets offensive line along with the backs and tight ends must remain stout in protection. Gang Green cannot afford missed blocks and blown assignments. Keep an eye on Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (9 sacks) and Greg Hardy (7 sacks).
Grind it out Geno- Quarterback Geno Smith is going to have to raise his game on Sunday as he is going to face a tremendous amount of pressure. Smith has to be quick with his reads and use his legs when the pocket starts to collapse. Geno will have to take what the defense gives him and trust his teammates to make plays for him. I would not be surprised to see the Jets use Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland as safety valves for the rookie quarterback.
Contain Cam- The Jets defense is going to have their hands full with quarterback Cam Newton as he is as dangerous with his legs (6 rushing tds) as he is with his arm (20 passing tds). New York has to find a way to keep Cam in the pocket and force him into poor decisions. There is a good chance that Rex Ryan will put a "spy" (Demario Davis? Antonio Allen?) on Newton in an effort to prevent the signal caller from making big plays running the ball.
Fear the tight end- If New York is able to slow down the Carolina running game they then have to worry about a tight end that can consistently make big plays. Greg Olsen (58 catches, 5tds) is going to challenge the Jets safeties and linebackers as he is moved all around the field on offense. This has to be a huge concern for Gang Green as they have repeatedly struggled to cover the tight end position this season.
Smith still brings it- Wide receiver Steve Smith remains an explosive playmaker that can take it to the house at any given moment. Smith is a tenacious player that will fight for every last yard. The Jets secondary will have to roll coverage to Steve especially considering the issues that the unit has had defending the deep ball. While covering Smith Gang Green's defenders must also account for Brandon LaFell (45 catches, 5 tds) who is starting to emerge as a threat as well. Injury note: Defensive back Antonio Cromartie is dealing with symptoms from a concussion and remains questionable for Sunday.
I fear that the Jets are walking into a hornet's nest on Sunday. The Panthers are smarting from last week's loss and will be out for blood. I honestly believe that the first quarter of the game will dictate a lot for Gang Green. If Geno and the Jets can weather the early storm they may be able to make a game out of it. If New York comes out soft, timid, and conservative the game will be over at halftime.
I think that the Jets defense will be able to limit Cam and company. On offense I just don't know how Geno and the guys will put together long scoring drives against Luke Kuechly and his ferocious defense. Panthers 20-7.