On Sunday the New York Jets kickoff the 2013 season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. EST). The Jets enter the season as a team in transition while the Buccaneers are facing some pressure to win after spending a significant amount of money to upgrade their roster. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game from the New York Jets perspective.
Get Geno comfortable early- Rookie quarterback Geno Smith will be making his first NFL start on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg must come up with a game plan that gets the rookie signal caller comfortable early on in the game. Whether that means a "dink and dunk" offense or a "ground and pound" approach Mornhinweg must help Smith get through his jitters. I would not be surprised to see Geno go to tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland as his safety valves early on in the game.
Play of the offensive line- The Jets will be starting two new guards on Sunday with Vlad Ducasse on the left side and Willie Colon on the right side. The offensive line must play as a cohesive unit as the Buccaneer defense is going to apply a lot of pressure in order to stop the running game.
The return of Santonio Holmes? According to several published reports there is a good chance that wide receiver Santonio Holmes will play on Sunday. Holmes would be a huge boost to the Jets offense as he gives Geno Smith a reliable target/route runner. Santonio would also take some pressure off of the young Jets receiver group and could possibly open up some plays down the field.
Limit turnovers- In order for the Jets to win on Sunday Geno Smith must avoid the big mistakes and costly turnovers. Smith must try to play within the offense and not force the action. This will be a daunting task for Geno as the Buccaneers will pull out all of the stops to confuse the rookie.
Stop Martin- The Tampa Bay offense is built around running back Doug Martin who had 1,454 rushing yards in 2012. The Jets defense must slow down Martin and the Bucs running game in order to put pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman. Gang Green must also keep an eye on Martin out of the backfield as he tallied 49 catches in 2012.
Carl Nicks to miss game? As of now Buccaneers Pro-Bowl guard Carl Nicks is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. If Nicks is unable to play Gabe Carimi is penciled in to be his replacement. The Jets defensive line must take advantage of Nicks absence and provide a ton of pressure on the offensive line. Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson could get off to a fast start for the Jets.
Play of the secondary- The Jets secondary is going to have their hands full covering both Vincent Jackson (1,384 yards, 8 tds) and Mike Williams (996 yards, 9 tds). Antonio Cromartie should do a solid job on Jackson which will put the spotlight on Kyle Wilson and Dee Milliner as they try to cover Williams. The secondary as a unit must remain consistent in coverage and limit the yards after the catch.
Pressure Freeman- Even though Josh Freeman passed for over 4,000 yards in 2012 his completion percentage was still 54%. The Jets must get a consistent pass rush on Freeman and force him into poor decisions.
The biggest storyline in this game will be the return of Darrelle Revis, but the play of the quarterbacks will dictate the outcome. Geno Smith must efficiently move the Jets offense without making costly mistakes. Josh Freeman must be able to make some big plays against exotic blitz packages.
I think that the Jets defense is going to dictate the flow of the game with their physical and aggressive play. On offense I think Geno Smith will be aided by the power running game and play action pass. This will be a close game in the fourth quarter but the Jets find a way to pull it out (my guess special teams play). 24-20