Jets vs Lions: Game Preview

When you compare the Detroit Lions (3-5) and the New York Jets (4-5), you would be hard pressed to find any two teams that are more similar in their makeup and production. Lions' insider Mike Fowler previews Sunday's matchup between two teams with strikingly similar numbers.

Detroit Lions vs New York Jets
4:15 EST Ford Field
Sunday November 17, 2002

(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- No one's going to confuse a matchup between the Detroit Lions (3-6) and the New York Jets (4-5) as a Super Bowl preview -- at least not this year. But how about two or three years down the road? Both of these teams are rebuilding and hold promise for the future. When you compare two teams, you would be hard pressed to find any two teams that are more similar in their makeup and production than the Lions and the Jets.

Both teams feature young quarterbacks. Chad Pennington, the Jet's first round draft pick from Marshall University in 2000, has taken over the reigns of the club from veteran Vinny Testaverde and has produced. Pennington has started the last five contests for New York and they are 3-2 under his direction, including winners two straight.

Detroit, meanwhile, has turned over the team to rookie first round pick Joey Harrington. While the Lions are just 3-6 under Harrington, they have won their last three home games and are looking to make it four straight on Sunday. A look at their numbers shows that Pennington has passed for 1,454 yards, Harrington for 1,497.

Both teams also feture veteran running backs. New York's Curtis Martin, in his 8th season from Pittsburgh, has rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns, while his counterpart, James Stewart, also in his 8th year from Tennessee, is 5th in the NFC in rushing with 675 yards and three touchdowns. Both teams rush for an average of around 90 yards per game.

Both head coaches are in their second year, Marty Mornhinweg has a 5-20 mark as Detroit's pilot while Herman Edwards sports a 14-12 record in his two years in New York including a playoff appearance in his first season. Edwards was one of general manager's Matt Millen's top candidates for the Detroit job, but Millen never got a serious shot to hire Edwards. Edwards never left New York after taking his first interview with the Jets. New York immediately entered serious negotiations and signed him as their head man to take over for Al Groh, who left to return to his college alma mater Virginia.

While both teams have young receiving corps, neither has been that productive. Santana Moss and Laveranues Coles were supposed to team with Wayne Chrebet to re-ignite the Jets passing attack. Coles has amassed 546 yards receiving thus far to lead the team. Those stats are strikingly similar to the Lions' corps of Germane Crowell, Az-Zahir Hakim and Bill Schroeder. Hakim leads the Lions corps with 527 yards and three touchdowns.

The similarties don't end on defense. Erratic pass rushes on both sides has allowed opposing teams to score 24 points per game against the Jets, but 28.9 against the Lions. The leading pass rushers? John Abraham has five sacks for New York, Robert Porcher, you guessed it, has five for Detroit.

ANALYSIS: The Jets will attempt to exploit Detroit's weakness in stopping the pass. Curtis Martin has underacheived thus far this season but is still dangerous. The Jets will run just enough to avoid being one-dimensional. Detroit's Kurt Schottenheimer will have to avoid giving up the big play, so look for Detroit to go to a two-deep defense with a lots of nickle packages to avoid letting speed burners Coles and Moss beat them deep. Detroit will allow New York to catch the ball underneath and hope for mistakes and penalties. The Lions have shown an ability to stuff opponents run games (rank 13th in the NFL). Meanwhile, the Lions need to give the ball more to James Stewart. Stewart has shown that he can produce when healthy and the Jets run defense is among the worst in the AFC (rank 30th in the NFL), Detroit ought to exploit it by playing small ball. The formula: Give it to Stewart 30 times and take the air out of the ball.

PICK: Rather than running the football, Coach Mornhinweg will likely continue to throw the ball all over the field only late will he turn to Stewart. Stewart will get his usual 90 yards rushing. This game will be as close as the stats indicate the two team are. The result is that the Jets will win their third straight, while the Lions three game home winning streak will be broken

Jets 19 - Lions 16 in OT


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