New York Jets (5-2) at Detroit Lions (2-5)
Sunday, November 7, 2010, 1:00 PM, EST. Ford Field
Line: Jets -6
After a disastrous performance at home against Green Bay, the New York Jets look to get back on the winning track in Detroit against the 2-5 Lions. The Lions are coming off a 37-25 home win against Washington in quarterback Matthew Stafford's first game back after a lengthy injury. Detroit's playoff hopes remain close to nil, but this team is no pushover at home. The Jets will need to take Detroit seriously, but if they play up to their capabilities, they should be able to take care of the Lions.
When the Jets have the ball...
The Jets' offense has a lot of questions to answer. After the bye week, the Jets couldn't muster a single point against Green Bay's average defense. Luckily, Detroit's defense lacks playmakers and enough depth to stop the Jets' offense all game, at least you would think. The Lions allow 4.9 yards-per-carry, and even with Ndamukong Suh in the middle, the Lions can absolutely be run on.
Look for Brian Schottenheimer and the Jets to try to play like they did against Buffalo and most of last season. Run until the other team proves they can stop you. With Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and a stellar offensive line, there is no reason why the Jets shouldn't be able to do that. The Lions have allowed only four runs of 20+ yards all season long, but the Jets should be able to control time of possession and sustain long drives. Whether or not those drives end in touchdowns or field goals, especially early in the game, will go a long way in deciding this game.
Mark Sanchez needs to play better than he did the last two games. Fortunately, this game will be in a dome, so the wind won't be a factor like it was last week. But while the Lions' secondary can be beaten, Suh and company will be a tall order for the Jets' offensive line to block. Suh has 7 sacks already his rookie year, and in total, the Lions have 23 sacks and 8 interceptions. Alphonso Smith has four of those interceptions. He's one of the most underrated cornerbacks in football, but the rest of the secondary can absolutely be beaten. Look for the Jets to attack Chris Houston and the rest of the Lions' defensive backs.
The Lions are no pushover, but they do allow 23.6 points-per-game, 7th worst in football. If the Jets can't get back on track offensively and put up at least 20 points after the embarrassment that was last week, there will be problems. But expect Tomlinson and Greene to both play well and control time of possession. After all, if anybody can block Suh, it's Nick Mangold.
When the Lions have the ball...
With the return of Matthew Stafford, the Lions' offense is now fairly dangerous. Calvin Johnson is one of the most freakish athletes at wide receiver in the NFL. At 6-5, 236, he's a tough matchup for any cornerback. The Jets, of course, have two elite corners they can use to cover Megatron. Antonio Cromartie matches up closer in size, but Darrelle Revis's physicality should make him the better matchup on Johnson. The Lions will take shots with Johnson, no matter who is guarding him, but if the Jets stay physical with him, they should be able to contain him.
Stafford threw 20 interceptions last year, often forcing the ball to Johnson. This year, he's barely played over a full game, but last week he threw 4 touchdowns and 1 interception against Washington. The Jets will try to flip it. The Lions do spread the ball around more than in the past, but Nate Burleson and tight ends Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew aren't big playmakers.
Running the ball has been an issue for Detroit for years, mainly because the offensive line hasn't been good in years. Jahvid Best has the speed to be a big-play threat whenever he touches the ball, but he only averages 3.3 yards-per-carry. Best also has 36 catches as the Lions try to get him the ball in space to make long plays. He does have one 75-yard reception early in the season, and on the fast track of the dome, keeping Best from running free in the open field will be a major key.
The Lions aren't a difficult team to figure out on offense usually. The young quarterback usually throws the ball to Johnson or checks it down to a runningback or tight end. The Jets' defense should be able to hold the Lions down for most of the game offensively because the Jets can match up with Johnson. If Johnson is blanketed by Revis, the Lions' offense will be in big trouble.
Look for the Jets to return to their roots. Ground and pound, put Calvin Johnson on Revis Island, and try to win the game that way. Against Detroit, that should be able to work. The Jets will try to run outside a lot to avoid Suh, and between Greene, Tomlinson, and even Brad Smith, the Jets should be able to move the ball. But the Jets have had struggle scoring in the redzone for weeks now. If the Jets are held to field goals, the Lions have too many playmakers that could break through and win the game for them. But if the Jets can run the ball in the red zone and score touchdowns, the Lions will be forced to be one-dimensional, and their offense will have a tough time moving the ball. Look for a Jets win today, but not a comfortable one until late.
Jets 20, Lions 10