FLORHAM PARK, NJ - Before the start of the season no one would have expected the Jets to be sitting at 2-0 and the Eagles to be 0-2. Sure, there could have been a few people who expected one or the other but certainly not both. If anything most people would have had the records flipped but the Jets have stormed out to a 2-0 thanks to a relentless defense creating 10 turnovers while the Eagles offense as completely sputtered.
Can the Jets defense continue to dominate and keep a frustrated Eagles offense even more frustrated? Will the Jets offense be able to do enough, against a talented Eagles front-seven, to make sure the defensive efforts are not wasted? These are the questions that will determine who wins on Sunday and the Jets hope to answer both those questions in the affirmative and build even more confidence within the walls of their Florham Park practice facilities.
Through two games the Jets defense has looked other-worldly, 5 turnovers a game is a ludicrous amount and no one can expect the, to keep that pace up, while the Eagles offense, which has been so high-powered the past couple of seasons, has struggled mightily. It would appear that the Jets are getting the Eagles at just the right time but this is the NFL and few things are ever that cut-and-dry in this league. Just when you think you have a team figured out they go and throw everyone for a loop. Can the Jets avoid a hiccup to let the doubters around the league creep back in or will one game lead to everyone jumping right off the bandwagon?
WHEN: Sunday Seprember 27, 2015 1 pm EST (TV-CBS, Radio-ESPN)
WHERE: MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, NJ
DOUBTFUL - CB Darrin Walls (hamstring)
PROBABLE - DE Stephen Bowen (knee), G James Carpenter (back), CB Antonio Cromartie (knee), T Breno Giacomini (biceps), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (shoulder), LB Lorenzo Mauldin (concussion), WR Devin Smith (ribs), QB Geno Smith (jaw)
QUESTIONABLE - RB DeMarco Murray (hamstring)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Stop the run - Chip Kelly's explosive offense has been anything but explosive. The problems start with the blocking upfront, particularly with their guards Andrew Gardner and Allen Barbre. The guards haven't been able to block anyone so far this year, with defenders getting into the backfield and hitting Eagles running backs as soon as the get the handoff. Watch the Eagles try and pull their guards and you'll see defenders running stunts and exploding through the line before the Eagles have a chance to start moving downfield and neither the Falcons or the Cowboys have a defensive line even close to as good as the Jets.
The Jets defense needs to exploit this weakness and continue to frustrate the Eagles rushing attack. Don't even give the backs room to breathe let alone room to run. One of the other reasons for the Eagles offensive struggles has been the fact that Kelly's offense is based off of zone-read concepts but with Sam Bradford at quarterback the Eagles have barely run any read-option plays. They don't need Bradford to run for 30 yard gains off of keepers but even if they just had him slide out of the pocket from time to time it would force defenders to freeze for a second instead of just teeing off on the running back.
Stop the run and everything else will fall into place. The Eagles passing attack hasn't been much better than the ground game and it's because they need the ground game to be effective to force the safeties up and open up the downfield passing game. The Eagles have only attempted two passes that traveled 20 yards or more downfield and neither of them were completed. Jets fans know from their own recent history of having an anemic offense, it's very easy to defend passes when you know the ball isn't going downfield. Against this Jets defense the only way the Eagles can beat them downfield is by first finding success n the running game.
Control the clock and put points on the board - Last week the Jets game plan involved trying to control the clock and keep Andrew Luck on the sidelines, this week the strategy will be similar. Bradford is no Luck but if the Eagles offense can sustain some drives and not go three-and-out, like they have been, then the tempo of their offense could start to wear on the Jets defense.
It's important that the Jets defense doesn't let the Eagles offense get into a rhythm but it's equally as important that the Jets offense establishes a rhythm of their own and is able to move the ball, eat up clock and put points on the board. If they can't this Eagles offense will eventually find a way to make a big play and the Jets need to limit those opportunities. The Jets offense was lucky to survive last week like they did and it's possible they could survive in the same way this week but that's just not a sustainable winning formula. As good as the defense is eventually the offense is going to have to pull their own weight.
Win turnover battle - You can't depend on causing five turnovers a game. It's great when it happens but it's not something you can just expect to happen each week. Still the Jets aggressive defense is going to need to apply the pressure and try to keep forcing turnovers and Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to need to be a little more careful at times.
You always want to see your quarterback be willing to take chances but those chances can't become a detriment and last week that almost happened. Fitzpatrick has thrown an interception in both games this season but he easily could have thrown two or three last week and given the Colts a momentum boost to be able to pull out the win. One of these games the Jets defense won't force any turnovers and when that day comes the Jets offense is going to have to play flawless to emerge victorious.
Jets rushing attack vs. Eagles front-seven - There's not a lot to choose from as far as best matchups go. Interesting, possible one-sided matchups? Definitely, there are plenty of those, but strength against strength? The Jets rushing attack versus the Eagles front-seven is the only thing that fits the bill.
All the attention has been on the Eagles horrendous offense but their defense has played pretty well. Sure Julio Jones torched their secondary in Week One, but that's what Jones does. The Eagles front, consisting Cox, DeMeco Ryans, Vinny Curry, Brad Jones, Jordan Hicks, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham, are a formidable adversary for the Jets offensive line and running backs. If Ivory can't play it'll be up to Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy to step up and find cracks in this defensive front. The Jets offensive line struggled to open up rushing lanes against a far inferior Colts defense and they're going to need to play a lot better on Sunday.
Injuries - Both teams have some star players dealing with injuries but the Jets have a couple of injury concerns that could completely derail everything they like to do. Obviously there doesn't need to be an explanation for how big a loss Revis, Decker or Ivory would be. Revis is Revis, nothing more needs to be said there, and as solid as the depth is behind Decker and Ivory those two are a huge part of the Jets game plan. Ivory's running style wears defenses down and Decker's presence makes it harder for defenses to focus solely on Brandon Marshall.
If any one of these players can't go on Sunday it will drastically alter the Jets game plan but if all three of the, can't play all of a sudden the Jets don't look like such locks to go to 3-0.
PREDICTION: 21-10 Jets
The Jets are the better team here and this isn't a conclusion reached based on the past two weeks, I've thought this before the season began. If these two teams played 10 times I think the Jets would win at least seven ,aye even eight times and the average score would be around 21-10. I'm sticking with a Jets 21-10 victory as my pick but I have one main concern, weird stuff tends to happen in the NFL these days.
Weird, unexplainable things. Once you start to think you have a feel for a team they go out the next week and do the exact opposite of what you'd expect. The Jets are the better team in my opinion but I won't be surprised if the Eagles offense finally starts to click while the Jets offense inexplicably falls apart.