By Tyson Rauch
On Sunday the New York Jets (6-7) take on a very talented and physical Carolina Panthers (9-4) team at Bank of America Stadium. The Jets enter the game relatively healthy and will need “all hands on deck” in order to come away with a victory.
Open the playbook
Statistically the Carolina Panthers have one of the best defenses in the National Football League. The Panthers are ranked first against the run, fifth against the pass, second in yards allowed, and first in points scored.
New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg must come up with a game plan that will keep the Panthers defense off balance and take some pressure off of rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Mornhinweg will be without one weapon on Sunday as wide receiver Stephen Hill has been placed on injured reserve. Hill has had a very disappointing sophomore season for Gang Green and will be replaced by Greg Salas and David Nelson.
The Jets will more than likely try to establish a physical running game with back Chris Ivory or the short passing game with wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Whichever approach New York take with their game plan, it cannot be conservative as that is a recipe for failure. A predictable, ultra conservative offense would feed right into the hands of an aggressive Carolina defense.
Challenges for the secondary
The Carolina Panthers offense is built around a dynamic running game that features a quarterback that can make big plays with his legs. Cam Newton does a tremendous job of moving around the pocket and will force the Jets to put a spy on him in order to contain the explosive signal caller.
If New York is able to slow down the Panthers running game, they will then face the task of covering a versatile tight end and an explosive wide receiver. Tight end Greg Olsen is a versatile pass catcher that can take advantage of mismatches versus linebackers and safeties. The Jets defense, which has struggled to cover tight ends all season long, must play physical with Olsen and prevent him from opening up the passing game.
Wide receiver Steve Smith is a tenacious playmaker that will consistently take advantage of mistakes and breakdowns in the secondary. The New York Jets must roll coverage to Smith and avoid huge plays after the catch. Defensive back Antonio Cromartie is listed as questionable for this game as he is dealing with symptoms from a concussion suffered last Sunday. If Cromartie is unable to play, he will be replaced by a platoon of Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster.
Can Gang Green pull off the upset?
Defensively, it’s probable the New York Jets will hold their own against the Carolina Panthers. Offensively, it’s hard to see how Gang Green will be able to put together scoring drives. The Panthers defense is going to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on the offensive line and will get after Geno Smith. Can the rookie make some big plays under duress? Will guys like Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow help out Geno? This could be a very long day for the New York Jets.
DB Antonio Cromartie (concussion)
- LB Demario Davis (thumb)
- DT Kenrick Ellis (back)
- WR Jeremy Kerley (elbow)
- WR David Nelson (ribs)
- WR Greg Salas (finger)
- DE Muhammad Wilkerson (wrist)
- TE Kellen Winslow (knee)
- WR Santonio Holmes (foot)
For more Jets news and updates, visit Jets Central.
Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.