Green Bay Packers (4-3) at New York Jets (5-1)
October 31, 2010. New Meadowlands Stadium. 1:00 PM
Line: Jets -6
Two weeks after his worst outing since week one, Mark Sanchez looks to rebound and keep the Jets' five-game winning streak intact as the Green Bay Packers come to town. The Packers are coming off an emotional home victory over Brett Favre, just after they lost back-to-back overtime games. Both teams come in tied for the division lead, but the 5-1 Jets will have an edge in health and rest.
When the Jets have the ball...
The Jets' offense sputtered a little against Denver, needing a late pass interference call to help secure a victory. When they're good, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene are running all over the place, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are stretching the field, and Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery are getting open on third down conversions.
The Jets' offense has as much talent as any in the NFL, as long as Sanchez plays like he should, and the Jets protect him. Clay Matthews may be the most dangerous pass rusher in the NFL. He's coming off a hamstring injury, but D'Brickashaw Ferguson and company will need to keep him away from their franchise quarterback.
The Packers' defense still has a lot of talent on it. Charles Woodson is the defending Defensive Player of the Year, while A.J. Hawk and Cullen Jenkins are dangerous players at linebacker and defensive tackle. However, this is not an elite unit, especially without Nick Barnett's presence at linebacker. The Packers allow 4.7 yards-per-carry, and the Jets will try to take advantage of that with their two-headed rushing attack.
What the Packers can do defensively is cause turnovers, particularly in the passing game. Matthews and Woodson are elite playmakers, and they are large reasons behind the Packers' 10 interceptions this season, tied for 4th most in the NFL. Sanchez needs to be careful and not force passes. The Jets have enough playmakers to exploit the Packers' lack of depth, but if Sanchez doesn't have time to throw or doesn't make the right decisions, he could run into trouble.
The key is which Sanchez shows up. The one making poor decisions in Denver or the one who didn't turn the ball over for the first five games. Coming off a bye week, coming back to the friendly confines of the New Meadowlands Stadium, and facing a team that is coming off three consecutive tough games are all factors in his favor. Expect a big performance by the Jets' offense, starting with the running game.
When the Packers have the ball...
Aaron Rodgers has come into his own as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But without RB Ryan Grant and TE Jermichael Finley, all the load is put on Rodgers's shoulders. His receiving corps remains strong with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson, but the Jets boast one of the best sets of cornerbacks in the NFL. With a supposedly 100% Darrelle Revis across from Antonio Cromartie, this secondary will be tough to throw against.
The run defense for Gang Green hasn't been a problem. Sure, Denver was able to move the ball a little bit on the ground, but not enough to make much of a difference. And the Packers' run offense is almost as bad as the Broncos'. Brandon Jackson is not a starting-caliber NFL runningback. He has some talent, and he can catch the ball, but there's no reason that he should be much of a factor against the Jets' stout run defense.
On paper, this looks like a mismatch in favor of the Jets. Without Finley, the Jets should believe they can guard anyone on the Packers one-on-one. While Jennings will probably draw some deep help, the Jets match up well with the Packers' receivers. Jones may be able to get deep on Kyle Wilson, Dwight Lowery, or Drew Coleman, but not often enough to change the outcome. Rodgers is a good quarterback, and when he has time to throw, he'll move the ball, but this offense is too reliant on him making big plays, and against an elite defense, the Jets should be able to find a way to slow him down.
One thing the Jets will need to watch for is Rodgers taking off and running. Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Orton were able to move the chains a few times against the Jets on third down, and Rodgers is just as, if not more mobile than both of them. If the Jets' secondary covers like it can, Rodgers may take matters into his own hands. The other key is stopping Green Bay on third down, particularly third-and-long. The Jets have been too vulnerable in third-and-long situations, and Rodgers is a good enough quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly and get the ball to his playmakers quickly. But will it be enough? Probably not.
The Jets and Packers are on the opposite ends of the health spectrum. Green Bay has been riddled by injuries all year. Now flying across the country, after three hard games in a row, the Packers are set to face a fresh team that was playing like one of the best in the NFL. Sanchez must play better than he did in his last game, but coming home, he should be able to do that. But most importantly, Tomlinson and Greene will both be able to pound the Packers' defense. The Jets hold the advantage in the trenches and in many of the skill positions. As long as Matthews and Woodson don't go nuts, the Jets should be able to win this game.
Jets 31, Packers 17