Game Preview: Jets at Titans

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The New York Jets (2-1) travel to Nashville on Sunday (4pm EST KO) to face the Tennessee Titans (2-1).

Sunday’s game will be the 42nd meeting between the two teams. The Titans lead the series 22-17-1. The teams last met in 2012, on Monday Night Football, the Titans won 14-10. The game marked the beginning of the end for Mark Sanchez . He was benched immediately following the game after being responsible for 5 turnovers.

The Jets and Titans are in a position few thought that either team would be in; a chance to start the season 3-1.

Rex Ryan has always preached to his teams to win each quarter of the season. If you win more than you lose in every quarter, you put yourself in a great position to make the play-offs. With a win against the Titans on Sunday, the Jets would finish the first quarter of the season 3-1, and in the process, send a message to the league that they are a legitimate threat in 2013. Many still doubt the Jets because their two wins came against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the 1-2, AFC East whipping boys, the Buffalo Bills. Tennessee aren’t a power house by any means, but they do present a much larger challenge than both Tampa Bay and Buffalo.

A win will also give the Jets a huge momentum boost heading into the toughest portion of their schedule. After Tennessee, the Jets face Atlanta; Pittsburgh; New England; Cincinnati and New Orleans before their bye week — all perennial play-off contenders with a combined record of 9-5 in 2013.

The Titans strength is their defense. Through three games, the Titans defense is ranked seventh in the NFL. They have given up an average of 307.7 yards per game, and surrounded 18.7 points per game — vastly improved from 2012, when they were ranked 27th overall.

“Physical defense, they’re very fast. In the back end, they’ve got veterans, guys who can hit, who can play the field,” Jets rookie QB Geno Smith said, “They’re going to pose a challenge for us.

The Jets managed to succeed on the ground last week as they rushed for a combined 182-yards. Their success on the ground forced the Bills to load the box and play 8-men at the line-of-scrimmage, which gave the Jets one-on-one coverage outside, and allowed Geno Smith to excel in the vertical passing game. Smith completed seven passes that went for 18 yards, and four that went for 40 or more on his way to a career high 331 passing yards.

Against the Titans that will be a much tougher task. The Titans have a stout defensive front led by defensive end Derrick Morgan, and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, and higher caliber defensive backs, than the Buffalo Bills, in Jason McCourtney and Alterraun Verner. The key to the game offensively stands with the offensive line. Last week the group managed to keep Smith upright for the whole game — shutting down Mario Williams. If they can continue to provide the rookie with time in the pocket, he has proved he has the ability and patience to make plays down the field. The Titans struggled to control Chargers’ TE Antonio Gates last week, so expect Smith and Mornhinweg to target Kellen Winslow early and often, and attempt to loosen up the Titans secondary.

Offensively, the Titans post less of a challenge for the Jets and their 3rd overall ranked defense. Rex Ryan, predicted that the Jets would have a top-5 defense in 2013, and so far he has delivered. The Jets have surrounded only 16.7 points, and 270 yards on average per game. However, their downfall is that they have only forced 2 turnovers. Ryan told the media this week that, “That’s something we need to get better at, we’ve got to create some opportunities for our offense.” The Titans have yet to turn the ball over, but their careful play has not translated into points — they are currently ranked 29th overall in total offense.

Titans quarterback Jake Locker is still developing — he has only 11 career starts — so look for Rex Ryan to come at him with the same ferocious blitz schemes he used against the Bills last week. According to ProFootballFocus the Titans interior offensive line have struggled, allowing 26 QB pressures on Locker, so expect Ryan to attack that area.

The Jets also have to negate the big play. Blown assignments have plagued them so far this season. In week one, Vincent Jackson broke away for a big gain in the final moments of the game to give the Buccaneers a chance to kick a go ahead field goal; in week two, New England’s only touchdown came early on a blown coverage assignment, and in week three, the Bills lone touchdown was handed to them due to a blown coverage assignment. The Jets have to stay focused for the whole game, and not allow a mental error to hurt them. This is especially prevalent as the Titans have the explosive Chris Johnon in the backfield. In 2012, the Jets held Johnson to 28 total yards, however, Johnson broke free for a 96-yard touchdown run, a facet of his game that he has the ability to produce at any moment.

Both teams need a win in this game, as it could set them up for further success down the road. However, the Jets have the better defensive unit, and Geno Smith looks like he is beginning to “figure it out”. If Smith can continue his development, protect the ball, and lead the Jets on a few scoring drives, the defense should be able to contain Locker, Johnson, and the Titans offense.

Prediction: Jets 27 – Titans 13


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