Friday, December 14, 2012

Matchups To Watch on MNF - Jets at Titans

While the Titans are now eliminated from playoff contention, the Jets are still very much in the wildcard hunt for the playoffs in the AFC. The Jets are 6 and 7 (3-2 on the road) and have a 3 game win streak at LP Field. The Titans are a measly 2-4 at home this season but can play the spoiler role.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez is back under center, but the passing game still remains an issue for the Jets. While it doesn't appear Rex Ryan is going to insert Tim Tebow into the lineup, the circus atmosphere still very much surrounds the team. Ryan certainly deserves some criticism for some of the problems the Jets have faced, but you have to give him some credit for keeping the team focused enough to win 6 games and remain in the AFC playoff picture.
Speaking of circus, the Jets just brought back wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who recently criticized the team calling them "idiots" for the handing of Sanchez. Given that, the decision may or may not justify his words.
 In any event, Edwards, recently released by Seattle for non production, probably will not provide a big impact.
Sanchez does love him some Edwards though so the Titans would be well served to devote some attention to him. However, the main guy to watch and their leading wide receiver is slot receiver Jeremy Kerley. Linebackers Zach Brown, Akeem Ayers and cornerback Jason McCourty could have their hands full with  him.
In preparing for my radio spot to talk about the Jets game, I took a good look at the Jets and one of the bigger surprises I found was how well the offensive line was blocking particularly in the run game. Running back Shonn Greene has pretty amazing stats considering how poorly the passing game has gone.
The Jets feature two undrafted free agents on their offensive line in the form of Austin Howard and Brandon Moore and they are having really nice seasons. Center Nick Mangold keeps doing his thang and is having a great year as well.
Austin Howard

Brandon Moore
Nick Mangold
Greene does particularly well running off center, right guard and right tackle so one of the better matchups to watch will be Derrick Morgan versus that part of the run game. Morgan is assuredly the Titans best defensive end versus the run and he is quietly having a very solid season.
While the passing game has struggled left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson will test Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley who currently leads the Titans in sacks with 6. Wimbley has settled into his new role with the Titans and is very good at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. A toe injury has slowed him but this is still a matchup that is sure to be exciting to watch.
On the flip side, Jets defensive end Muhammed Wilkerson is having a great year particularly against the run and the Titans run game has struggled in that department. Calvin Pace is also having a pretty solid year and the Titans are likely to have their hands full with those two guys.

Safety LaRon Landry leads the team in tackles with 68 with middle linebacker David Harris a hair behind him at 66. Certainly the Jets defense has struggled but they are still ranked 3rd in the league versus the pass and that is an area the Titans are definitely a work in progress so I expect the Titans to struggle passing the ball.
A 3-4 defense can be a nightmare for any quarterback and particularly so for a young quarterback and this will be a real test for Jake Locker. The Jets defense is ranked 29th against the run and I feel certain the Titans will attempt to get their running game back on track as Chris Johnson's carries and numbers have dropped substantially in the last two games.
Finally, this is a game that will test the mettle of two head coaches who are without question on the hot seat and under siege. Rex Ryan and Mike Munchak have quarterbacks who are struggling offensively. Their teams are largely considered to have underperformed. The difference is that Ryan is coaching for a playoff spot and Munchak is coaching for his job. It is hard to say who has more at stake as this situation plays out on the national stage.

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