Monday night will be the first – and only – time this regular season that we play a game under cover in a dome.
With regulated conditions inside Atlanta's Georgia Dome, factors such as rain, wind and temperature are all taken out of the equation, and controlling these variables makes kicking the football a little easier. Therefore, according to linebacker and special teams contributor Nick Bellore, the kickoff return and kickoff coverage aspects of the game should be less of a factor than normal.
"We have to run down with the expectation that they're going to bring it out," he said, "but Nick [Folk]'s been blasting the ball, so it should be a non-factor."
With lots of touchbacks expected, the kickoff game will be "close to eliminated," Bellore said, "so whoever does better in the punt/punt return game will likely be whoever wins the special teams battle in the game."
Through the first quarter of the regular season, the Jets rank 23rd in the NFL with an average of 5.1 yards per punt return. Meanwhile, we're ranked 27th in punt coverage, as our opponents are gaining an average of 11.3 yards per return.
Going up against the Falcons this week will present us with "an excellent challenge," ST coordinator Ben Kotwica said during his weekly news conference on Friday. They're fundamentally sound and overall they're a solid unit, he said.
Atlanta ranks second in the NFL in punt coverage, giving up an average of just 1.6 yards per return, but the Falcons' punt returners have struggled, gaining just 4.4 yards per return, 28th overall.
Their success on punt coverage starts with their punter, Matt Bosher, who's currently the league leader with 45.2 net yards per punt.
"He does a nice job of hanging the ball up and kicking it directionally," Kotwica said.
While it's been steadily improving each week, both the punt coverage and punt return games need to get better for the Green & White, Bellore said.
"I think we've given up a couple of long punt returns this year that we have to eliminate. [Ryan] Quigley's done a great job of putting us in position, but we can't expect him to kick it 50 yards out of bounds every time — even though he just about does that. We just have to go down there and make a play."
Actually, the Jets' numbers show a rapid improvement.
When Robert Malone was the punter in our first two games, he was sending the ball 46.3 yards downfield, but after returns, the net average was 37.1 yards, ranked 28th in the league.
Quigley has punted for the Jets the past two weeks, though, and while he's punting the ball just 44.9 yards, slightly less than Malone, his 41.6-yard net ranks 11th.
"Every once in a while, he'll kick one maybe 5 yards in bounds, which is a great punt," Bellore said, "but we have to make sure we get downfield quickly and make the tackle."
*Special Teams Saturday