7 Points: Jets Host NFC Champion Falcons

Posted Oct 28, 2017

Rain's in the Forecast for Two Teams Who Want to End Slumps with a Rousing Win at MetLife

It could be a game of firsts when the Jets host Atlanta at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

It will definitely be the Jets' first interconference game of the season after they loaded up with seven AFC games to begin the schedule.

It will also be the first time since playing Dallas in 1993 that the Jets will take on the defending NFC champions.

And it is shaping up to be the worst weather game of the season, with rain forecast to fall on the Meadowlands from before the opening kickoff until after the final gun.

On top of it all, they want to wipe out the memory of their fall-from-ahead losses of the previous two weeks with a rousing effort against the Falcons, who have lost their last three games but can regain the look of a Super Bowl participant at any time.

"We started the season with two losses and then we were able to get rolling again," said QB Josh McCown, "so the hope right now is that we'll get rolling again in a similar fashion, and it starts with Atlanta. ... They're looking to rebound, too. We know we'll have our hands full, but it will be a great opportunity for us to get back out there and improve on what we're doing, improve on our process."

Here are seven points to ponder as the Jets try to process a victory and get back to .500 at 4-4:

1. The Series So Far
The Jets trail the Falcons all-time, 6-5, but have outscored them, 209-184. They have the last win in the series, 30-28 on MNF in the Georgia Dome in 2013, courtesy of Nick Folk's 43-yard walk-off field goal. Their last home win came in the previous millennium, 1998 to be exact, as Vinny Testaverde (34 years old, three TD drives) outdueled Steve DeBerg (44, one FG drive), 28-3. One more record wrinkle, FWIW: The Jets have won five of their last seven vs. the NFC South while the Falcons have lost six of their last seven vs. the AFC East.

2. Long Drivers
Atlanta looked every bit the NFC titlist in this year's first three games, not so much in the last three. But one element has been consistent and is a danger to the Jets' plans: the ability of QB Matt Ryan and the Falcons to drive the ball. Ryan (who beat the Jets 10-7 in '09 in Meadowlands after a heavy overnight snow) is first among qualifying QBs in yards/drive (38.5), second in plays/drive (6.24) and No. 1 in punt drive percentage (29.3%). Not favorable numbers if the Jets want to play keepaway with their visitors from the South.

3. Give and Take
Working in the home side's favor are the teams' recent turnover habits. On the surface, the Jets (minus-2 TO margin) and Falcons (minus-4) are fairly close. But the Green & White have been trending up, especially in the interception department — their nine picks are tied for third-most in the NFL. The Falcons, meanwhile, have come up with only three takeaways, worst in the league. But speaking of finishing, the Jets need to close better in the turnover area. Through the first three quarters this season they're plus-5, in the fourth quarter, minus-7.

4. Precision Passing
Another antidote to the Falcons drive machine is McCown's accuracy. At 69.2%, he's No. 2 in the NFL and also the second most accurate QB after seven games in franchise history behind Chad Pennington's 69.5% in 2002. But the pitcher is only part of the equation. The catchers — Jermaine Kearse (27 catches, 36 targets), Jeremy Kerley (21/24), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (26/34), Matt Forté (19/21) and Bilal Powell (15/20) — have snared almost everything thrown their way. Can the screen game work as well vs. ATL as it did at MIA? Seven screens picked up 124 yards after the catch, a 17.7 YAC average.

5. Mo vs. Julio
A good assumption is that Morris Claiborne, the Jets' most senior CB, will match up with Julio Jones, the Falcons' explosive WR. "I look forward to those types of matchups," Mo says. "Either you're going to stand up or you're going to stand down." Jones has 34 catches for 466 yards (11th in the NFL) in six games. It's true that Claiborne has incurred exactly one penalty each game, seven in all. It's also true that he's given up none of the opponents' 15 TD passes this year and also that he's kept Jones out of the end zone in two previous meetings.

6. Yellow Flag Focus
In 2015-16, HC Todd Bowles' Jets were tied for the fewest penalties in the NFL (189) and led the league in fewest penalty yards (1,624). This season they are tied for the third-most penalties (57) and lead the league in most penalty yards (546). Confusing? Frustrating? Bowles agrees, but he said, "We work at it all the time and keep chipping away. The guys understand it’s important. We just have to keep grinding." How did the penalty focus go this week? "Based on two practices," he said, "great."

7. Know Thy Foe
The Atlanta staff is more aware of Jets Nation than one might think. Head coach Dan Quinn grew up in Morristown, NJ, 30 miles west of MetLife, "where," he said, "my love of football began." He was the Jets' DL coach in '07-08 and interviewed for their head coaching job in '15. Jerome Henderson, Quinn's defensive pass game coordinator, played and coached for the Green & White and had a 53-yard fumble-return TD in that '98 win over Atlanta. And assistant HC Raheem Morris played and coached at Hofstra and was a Jets minority intern in '01.