Saturday, September 27, 2008
Jets vs Cardinals Keys
*Win the turnover battle. Arizona was +5 in the first two games, they were 2-0. Last week, they had two turnovers and lost the game. Favre needs to limit his mistakes as much as possible, and Jones can't have fumbles in back-to-back games. Turnovers are the silent killer of many a football team, and it's a big reason why the Jets were blown off the field by San Diego. Arizona QB Kurt Warner has been prone to turnovers in the past, though he seems to have found new life in the southwest.
*Run the ball! Thomas Jones was held to just 10 carries for 37 yards last week. More accurately, the Jets held him to that as they were so far behind they couldn't really run the ball any more. The Jets need to establish him early and often, and maybe get Leon Washington the ball, too. Arizona has allowed 105.3 yards per game on the ground, 14th in the NFL. They have some talented players in the front seven, but they are 11th through the pass, so there's no easy solution against this Cardinals' defense.
*Slow Arizona's passing game. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are stars in this league for good reason. Darrelle Revis is a great cornerback, but he can't do it alone. This will be a major test for Dwight Lowery, as he likely has his toughest test yet this week. Former Michigan playmaker Steve Breaston also looms as the #3 receiver. Of course, there's another way to stop the pass, and that is to get to the quarterback. They did it in weeks one and two, but San Diego was able to keep Philip Rivers upright. Warner has shown throughout his career that he can get a little rattled if pressure starts to get to him, so Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Vernon Gholston, and company will have their work cut out for them.
*Make plays in the passing game, and keep Brett upright.
The pass blocking has not been a big problem so far this year, but it's always a key. Arizona has eight sacks in their first three games, so they can generate some pressure. Favre needs to show some improvement from last week for this game to go the way New York wants. Early in the San Diego game, there were several miscommunications, and the team just looked out of sync. Later in the game, when the Jets were forced to pass almost every down, they looked better. Hopefully that was actual improvement, and not just a late-game tease.
*Keep Arizona one-dimensional
Warner, Boldin, and Fitzgerals is a dangerous passing attack. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower should be much easier to stop on the ground. The two average 102 yards per game, 21st in the league. Many, including myself, believe that the 30-year old James is a shell of his former self. He's averaged 4.0 yards a carry this year, so he can matriculate the ball down the field before they give the ball to rookie Hightower (2.6 YPC) near the goalline. As long as Kris Jenkins plays, and it sounds like he will, the Jets should be able to bottle up their rushing offense.
*Win the special teams battle. The special teams have had more than their fair share of ups and downs (mostly the latter), and it was a big reason behind the loss to New England. Ben Graham and Jay Feely are far from elite. Arizona kicker Neil Rackers has a big leg, while Dirk Johnson is a run-of-the-mill punter. Washington, who almost scored last week, has the edge over Breaston in terms of the return game, but the Arizona returner is both quick and fast, with one career punt return TD in his rookie year last year.