They share a last name, but Jets head coach Rex Ryan and Atlanta QB Matt Ryan don't share similar hopes for the outcome of Monday night's game.
"We have as tough a challenge as there is in the National Football League in this opponent's back yard," Rex said. "I think their record might be 1-3, but their record at home since Matt took over is more than impressive. So that's where our focus is and what's down the road or behind us isn't important right now. Every bit of our focus is on our opponent."
Here's the focus on Matt Ryan's record in 40 starts in the Georgia Dome since 2008: 65.2% passing accuracy, 64 touchdowns to 27 interceptions, no lost fumbles, a 95.8 passer rating, and a 34-6 record.
Yet the Jets aren't throwing in the green towel. They have a productive running game, the Geno Smith long ball, and a top-ranked defense. Here are 10 things to look for in the Jets-Falcons game.
- The Geno Project —** Smith's 17 completions of 20+ yards are the most by a Jets QB in the first four games of a season since Joe Namath's 17 in 1972. His 11 giveaways (8 INTS, 3 FUMs) are also prolific. This week the turnovers were emphasized as Geno and the offense were put through ball-protection drills by RBs coach Anthony Lynn. "I'm frustrated after a loss, disappointed in the way I took care of the ball," Smith said of the Titans. "I've got to look at every single thing, good or bad, as a learning experience and just move on from it."
2. Breaking Up Is Hard to Do — The other half of our minus-10 turnover deficit problem is a dearth of defensive takeaways for 3½ games. One problem with no interceptions since Tampa Bay is that the Jets DBs haven't even been getting their hands on passes, let alone picking them. The only pass defense at Tennessee was Walls' diving breakup in the third quarter. Pressbox stats are a little short, but not by much, in giving the Jets an NFL-worst five PDs this season. Rex wants aggressiveness in coverage and now is the time for our pass defenders to assert themselves.
3. Corner Rotation — We've had three different starting corners — Darrin Walls, Kyle Wilson and Dee Milliner — opposite Antonio Cromartie the past three games. The last time that happened was three years ago when Darrelle Revis was injured. Milliner didn't practice this week and is out. The coaches were OK with Walls' game at Tennessee, except for his coverage on Justin Hunter's late-first-half leaping TD grab, and they're good with Wilson in the slot. All DBs will have to be on their game to do battle with the big-bodied Julio Jones (NFC-high 33 catches, NFL-leading 481 yards).
4. Changing of the (Left) Guard? — Vladimir Ducasse emerged in Week 2 against Vince Wilfork and the Patriots. But the last two games Vlad's struggled, especially in being hit with six penalties (five marked off). Rex Ryan wasn't committing through Saturday but third-round rookie Brian Winters got extended work with the ones during the week and he sounds ready if he gets the call on Monday Night Football: "I have to keep cool and keep my calm, but it's going to be an exciting thing."
5. Security Blanket on the Shelf? — One way for the Jets offense to take heat off its battered WR corps is to turn to the running game, with Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson set to be in action together for the first time. Another could be to get tight again with Kellen Winslow, who surpassed 5,000 career receiving yards with a second-half line at Tennessee (eight targets, six catches, 73 yards) that was better than his combined totals for the previous 10 quarters (five targets, three catches, 16 yards). However, Winslow (knee) didn't practice Saturday and is questionable for this game.
|First Downs Gained/Game||18.3||21.8|
|First Downs Allowed||14.0||19.8|
6. Falcons on Edge — Our pass rushers want to stop Atlanta's featured back — which will be Jacquizz Rodgers with Steven Jackson declared out — because they then want to be barging into Matt Ryan's kitchen. Will it all be easier due to the Falcons' O-line issues? RT Lamar Holmes was benched last week for Jeremy Trueblood, yet reemerged against the Patriots at LT after Sam Baker hurt his knee. Baker's out for this game. And the Jets are taking aim on the edges.
7. New Faces, New Numbers — Besides Goodson, No. 23, there's WR David Nelson, No. 86. They're both expected to make their Jets debuts and could provide valuable contributions to the struggling offense. OC Marty Mornhinweg is still working Goodson, coming off his league suspension, into the offense slowly. But the 6'5" Nelson has grasped the playbook quickly and MM says, "He may be in there an awful lot on Monday" to help out a WR corps that will be with Stephen Hill but without Santonio Holmes.
8. Return of the Red Zone D — Last week the Jets defense was No. 1 in the NFL in opponents' red zone TD rate. This week they're tied for ninth at 38.5% after giving up three TDs off of short fields after turnovers to the Titans. No matter, says DC Dennis Thurman: "It's a mindset. We take the field, our job is to stop them and we've got to get them stopped." If RZ numbers mean anything, the Jets may have an advantage Monday — the Falcons are 29th (7-for-18, 38.9%) at scoring inside the 20. But keep in mind that Matt Ryan-to-Tony Gonzalez from the 6 beat the Jets at home in 2009.
9. Field Position Imbalance — The field has been tilted away from us all season, not just vs. the Titans. Our average start on all drives is our 21.8-yard line. The opponents' average is their 33.6. A big part of this disparity is attributable to our turnover issues. But Ryan Quigley's done his part in his two games as our punter (41.6-yard net) and Nick Folk has fared nicely on kickoffs (12 touchbacks, 19.6-yard opponents' average drive start). If that is maintained in the dome and KR Clyde Gates and PR Jeremy Kerley can get some traction on returns, the playing field can be releveled.
10. Back in the Pink — Be prepared for pink shoes, pink gloves and pink penalty flags. This is one of the NFL's annual games highlighting Breast Cancer Awareness. The Jets will also don the pink next week vs. the Steelers for this important reminder that early screenings save lives.
|JETS-FALCONS RIVALRY FACTS||Record/Score|
|Regular-Season Series Record||Falcons 6-4|
|Last Game||Falcons 10-7, 2009|
|Last Jets Win||Jets 28-3, 1998|
|Regular-Season Record @Falcons||Falcons 3-2|
|Last Game||Falcons 27-14, 2005|
|Last Jets Win||Jets 28-14, 1986|
|Monday Night Record||Falcons 1-0|
|Only Game||Falcons 27-14, 2005|