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6 Players to Watch as Jets Seek to Start Streak of '6 Great Games' on Sunday vs. Atlanta

This Could Be a Breece Hall Game; C.J. Mosley Needs to Lead Defense vs. Hot Rookie RB Bijan Robinson


Atlanta on Sunday at MetLife Stadium represents several things to the Jets.

For one, the Falcons are the Jets' "17th game" this season, the extra interconference opponent added to the schedule to fill out teams' 17-game schedules since 2021. For another, it's a return to schedule normalcy for the Jets, who last played a 1 p.m. ET home game in Week 3 against the Patriots.

More important, the visitors are a lot like their hosts in that they had high hopes for '23 but have struggled recently. Atlanta dropped three in a row before beating New Orleans at home on Sunday, while the Jets are trying to snap a four-game skid. The Falcons have produced more offense than the Jets, but the Green & White have been better at the turnover game than the Red & Black Birds (minus-1 turnover margin and 19 takeaways to minus-6 and 12).

The records are similar — the Falcons are 5-6 and the Jets 4-7 — but a major difference is that Atlanta comes in as the team with the much better playoff position, since they're in first place in the .500-challenged NFC South. But they also come in as a team not as good on the road (1-4) as at home (4-2). And perhaps that will give the Jets some impetus toward finding their winning ways again and returning to the AFC postseason conversation.

"Everybody's trying to get on the same page and talk about how to get this train back on the tracks," MLB and team captain C.J. Mosley said on Monday after the the Black Friday loss to Miami. "It's about controlling your controllables. ... If we can control the tangible things, do those and get back to the basics, we can start seeing our improvement, but it's one day at a time."

And will QB Aaron Rodgers returning to limited practice this week have any bearing on the Jets' mental approach toward this game?

Here are six players to watch as the Jets, in the words of head coach Robert Saleh, prepare "to play six great football games" to close out this regular season

Ts Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown — Who will be the Jets' flank protectors for QB Tim Boyle and the openers of off-tackle holes for Breece Hall? Will Becton (who sat out the Miami game with an injury) and Brown (who's missed the last nine) return to the lineup, or will it be rookie LT Carter Warren and second-year RT Max Mitchell, or some combination of the group? The return of the more experienced Becton and possibly Brown could add stability to the Jets' pass pro, which has risen to No. 3 in the NFL in most sacks allowed this season, against a Falcons defense 27th in sack rate and 24th in interception rate.

RB Breece Hall — We've said it before, but this could be a Hall of a game. He has been held in check since his 177-yard explosion in Game 5 at Denver, but he's got a chance to pick up speed Sunday behind a possibly more experienced O-line and especially in going up against Atlanta's run defense. For the year, ATL ranks in the middle of the pack, but over the past five weeks, the Falcons, hit with injuries, have the NFL's 27th run defense in yards/game (141.3) and 24th in yards/carry (4.59). Jets fans would love to see "BREEECE" run with the wind once again.

Edge rushers Bryce Huff and Jermaine Johnson — Desmond Ridder can be dangerously efficient but the Falcons QB can also be mistake-prone. He's tied for fourth among NFL QBs in total giveaways with 14 (eight INTs, 6 FUMs) and tied for second in the league with four lost strip sacks. The Jets can come at Ridder with a number of rushers, but Huff (6) and Johnson (5) are 1-2 on the defense in sacks and 1-4 in QB hits. Combined with heat from Quinnen Williams. John Franklin-Myers and Quinton Jefferson, Huff/Johnson could make Desmond concerned for he MetLife marketplace.

LB C.J. Mosley — Mosley, with 115 tackles, is on a career pace for 177 tackles. And he'll need to bring his tackling and troop-rallying skills against highly productive rookie RB Bijan Robinson. The eighth overall pick out of Texas has 703 rushing yards, 240 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He leads all NFL rookies in rush yards and he's fifth-best among all RBs with 5.0 yards/carry (minimum 100 carries). And Robinson's coming off 123 scrimmage yards and two TDs in the Falcons' win over the Saints. This is a key matchup for the Jets D, great in pass coverage but not as great vs. the run.

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