The New York Jets travel to Carolina this week to take on the (9-3) Panthers. The Jets sit outside the AFC playoff picture at (6-7) with three must-win-games left on their schedule.
Geno Smith and the Jets offense will face their toughest test of the season Sunday. Carolina’s defense is one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Panthers defense ranks second in the league in total defense, 5th against the pass and 1st against the run.
The Jets offense will need to be physical upfront if they have any chance of upsetting the Panthers. The Panthers let up less than 80 rushing yards per game and have only let up 3 rushing touchdowns all season. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell will have to establish themselves in between the tackles to prevent third and longs for Geno Smith. The Panthers have 41 sacks this season (4th in the NFL) and have 16 interceptions.
The Jets recent struggles on offense make me question if the Jets have any chance to win this game on Sunday. The Panthers are coming off a humiliating loss in New Orleans on Sunday Night Football where the Panthers defense was shredded by Dew Brees. I expect the Panthers defense to come out and play very physical and its key for the Jets to answer.The Jets will have to have some success on the ground to prevent third and longs and must string along drives to keep their defense off the field.
The Jets defense will need to be physical as well. The Panthers love to pound the ball and then catch the defense sleeping on a play action pass. The Panthers average 129 yards a game on the ground but rank 29th in passing. If the Jets can win on first and second down and make Cam Newton beat them through the air they have a better chance for the upset. When Carolina was down last week at the Saints, Newton struggled to bring the Panthers back passing the football.
I think this match-up is not a favorable one for the Jets. The Panthers are a very physical football team and are the type of defense Geno Smith and Marty Mornhinweg don’t want to see. However, if the Jets can control the clock by running the ball and make Newton beat them through the air, the Jets will keep it close and will have a chance to win it late.