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Game Preview: Jets at Falcons

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The New York Jets (2-2) will face the Atlanta Falcons (1-3) tonight in the Georgia Dome on Monday Night Football (8:40pm EST KO) in their toughest test of the season.

 The Jets are 4-6 all-time against the Atlanta Falcons. The two teams last met in 2009 during Mark Sanchez’s rookie season. Sanchez threw 3 interceptions as the Falcons won 10-7.

1. Neutralize the Falcons Weapons.

The Falcons have a myriad of weapons: Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzlez. The Jets will have to neutralize all of them to stand a chance in this game. Antonio Cromartie will shadow, the falcons number one target, Julio Jones. But a key to the game will be how the Jets cover the rest of the Falcons weapons, specifically Tony Gonzalez. Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner (hamstring) is out for the game, and since week 2 the Jets have alternated between Darrin Walls and Kyle Wilson at the second cornerback spot. Wilson has been more effective in coverage, but has struggled with penalties. The Jets will need both to play at their best tonight, no matter who starts.

2. Collapse the pocket.

The Jets need to get pressure on Falcons QB Matt Ryan without bringing the blitz. Ryan’s QB rating drastically improves when opposing teams send extra pressure — Ryan has a passer rating of 101.9 when blitzed, but a rating of 59.1 when under pressure. He is a smart QB that can decipher and exploit the vacant area if the defense brings pressure. If the Jets have to bring any form of extra pressure to get to Ryan, he will find his outlets and the game will be a forgone conclusion.

3. Stop the turnovers

Geno Smith has turned the ball over 11 times through the first 4 games, he needs to be smarter with his decisions against the Falcons. The defense has a very tough task ahead of them as they try to limit one of the league’s top offenses, and they can’t be faced with a short field due to more turnovers. If there was ever a game that the Jets needed a Sanchez-esq performance this is it. Smith needs to make smart decisions, put the team in position to score points, and not give the Falcons offense a short field. He doesn’t have to win the game, but he can’t lose it for the Jets.

4. Wide Receiver Problems

The Jets are missing their number one receiver, Santonio Holmes, for the game with a hamstring injury. It’s up to the Jets receivers as a whole to step up and pick up the slack. Luckily, Stephen Hill, who was thought to be out for the game with a concussion passed the league mandated concussion test and will play, but the Jets, and Geno Smith, need someone to step up with a big time performance. The Jets will go into the game with Hill, Jeremey Kerley, Clyde Gates, Michael Campbell and David Nelson as their receivers — two of which were not on the Jets active roster a week ago.

5. Get the Ball to Goodson.

Jets running back Mike Goodson is returning from a four week suspension. Goodson has an explosive speed that the Jets have been missing on the edge. Goodson has not played yet this season, so the Jets hold the advantage over the Falcons due to them not having any film on him. The Jets should utilize that advantage and get Goodson the ball early and often.

All in all, this is a momental task for the Jets. The Falcons have had a rough start to the season thanks to a very unforgiving schedule — all their 4 losses have come against teams with a combined record of 11-1. They are in desperation mode, and absolutely need a win to stop the bleeding and prevent the Saints from running away with the NFC South. If the Jets can play a flawless game they have a shot, but one mistake will doom them. And if history tells us anything, the Jets are prone to mistakes.

Prediction: Falcons 31 – Jets 20

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