It’s a brand new season and the Jets open it up in style, on Sunday night football with a home game against the Cowboys. Insert all the obligatory new season clichés here: hope springs eternal; everyone is tied for first…blah, blah. Now, everyone think about all the things Rex Ryan has said about the game: biggest football game in the history of mankind, Super Bowl or bust…blah, blah. Alright, now we’re ready to talk about football!
The number one matchup to watch in this game is without a doubt the Jets shut down cornerback duo of Revis and Cromartie against the talent Dallas receiving corps which features the inhuman athleticism of Dez Bryant and the very illusive Miles Austin. This will be a great test for Gang Green’s secondary right out of the gate. If they can shut down these two talented receivers, there is no duo in the league that should give them trouble.
What could happen though is, if Revis and Cromartie lock up the two receivers, Romo will just feed Jason Witten the ball because none of the Jets linebackers or safeties can stop him. Witten is the most consistent receiving tight end in the league. He has averaged 91 receptions per year over the past four seasons. For reference, Antonio Gates has averaged 66 receptions per year in that same time span, and Gates has never had a season with 90 or more receptions. The thought of Eric Smith trying to cover Witten should be enough to make any Jets fan retch.
Of course the Jets won’t have to worry about any of that if their pass rushers can take advantage of the tattered Dallas offensive line and put a few big hits on Romo. The one thing about Romo though is he is one of those quarterbacks who is almost more dangerous when he is flushed out of the pocket. Pressure up the middle and outside containment could be the right combination to slow these Cowboys down.
One x-factor for the Dallas offense is Felix Jones. The alpha-Felix has averaged over five yards per carry over his career. He also caught nearly 50 passes last year which means he has to be accounted for on every single play.
When the Jets have the ball, the one thing everyone will be watching is the development of Mark Sanchez. If the Jets want to win the Super Bowl, Sanchez needs to take his game to the next level. In the season opener against the Ravens last season Sanchez was only allowed 21 passing attempts. That is an embarrassingly low amount for a quarterback coming off a tough loss in the AFC Championship.
Rex and Schottenheimer are going to have to take the reins off and let Sanchez seize ownership of this offense. It’s his third year in the league and he has already won four road playoff games (tied for most in NFL history), it’s time seriously for Mark to put on his big boy pants.
Watch him closely this year. When he’s on his biggest strength is his incredible accuracy. He’s not Aaron Rogers accurate, but he has great touch and his low career completion percentage is definitely not a function of his physical ability to throw the ball. His biggest challenge is to make smart decisions and avoid trying to do more than he is capable of doing.
Quick passes, particularly slants will be the bread and butter of the Jets offense. We should see plenty of slants to “Slantonio” Holmes (sorry I’m a sucker for nicknames) and the venerable Derrick Mason, which will allow Dustin Keller room to work up the seams. Also, if he’s anything like his old self, Plaxico Burress will be a force in the red-zone and anytime he is left in one-on-one coverage. He is the type of target a quarterback loves to have.
Even having lost Braylon Edwards, the Jets will be a tough team to cover this season, and the Cowboys are coming into this game with a banged up secondary. Terrence Newman is out of the game with a groin injury and Mike Jenkins is listed as questionable.
Dallas will definitely be better this year now that they do not have to suffer Wade Phillips, who was the most incompetent head coach in the league. Jason Garrett looks like he has a knack for motivating his players. After a pathetic 1-7 start, the Cowboys went 5-3 after Garrett took over last season. He also made a smart decision hiring Rob Ryan as his defensive coordinator.
All-in-all this is the Jets game to lose. Despite the Cowboys’ talent and improved coaching staff, if both teams play their best football, the Jets should win. They have been to two AFC title games in a row, they have a burgeoning young quarterback and they have brought back all their key players. It’s time to start considering the Jets a powerhouse on par with the Pats, Indy and the Steelers.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.