Jets at Eagles: Dogfight in Philly

Posted: December 17, 2011 by ndbohlen in Jets, NFL, Prediction
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Nick: Well, well, well. Rex Ryan’s endless predictions of Super Bowl glory versus “the Dream Team.” Quite the match-up.

The Jets are coming off a convincing smackdown of the Pee-Wee squad known as the Kansas City Queefs, and the Eagles ended the Dolphins recent run of success with a 26-10 win last week. Both teams are riding the high of getting the opposing coach fired — now that’s what I call a moral victory. Alas, the similarities end there. The Jets are on the verge of the playoffs and the Eagles are sitting at a lousy 5-8 despite all their “brilliant” offseason acquisitions.

Mike: Lo and behold, Bill Barnwell’s NFL preview has a chance of coming true! He wrote of the Jets’ “worst case scenario:”

“Uh-oh. A tough schedule zaps the Jets before Halloween, as they head into their Week 8 bye on a four-game losing streak and in third place in the AFC East. Their schedule gets easier after that, but the Jets are unceremoniously removed from the playoff hunt after getting stomped by the Eagles in Philly on December 18.”

Whoops! Sorry, Billy old pal, the Jets actually shut down both the Chargers and Dolphins and rode a two-game win streak into their bye after which they moved into a three-way tie at first place by beating the Bills… so in one sense, he was right: the Jets were in third place, because when three teams are tied, they’re listed alphabetically.

Nick: Well, he wasn’t that far off, in that the Jets were on the outside looking in until your team got some help this past weekend with losses by the Titans, Bengals, and Raiders. Besides, are you really harping on Barnwell for making a preseason prediction that didn’t come true? You sure showed him that hindsight is 20/20!

Mike: Barnwell was wrong and he spoke of the Jets in a manner other than one of sheer admiration and praise. I, therefore, have a full obligation to take advantage of my little pulpit on this blog to berate him for all of his failures associated with predicting the Jets’ demise.

And considering I wear glasses, I’m not even sure my hindsight it 20/20… except when I make regrettable drunken decisions… then it’s crystal clear.

Now the Jets have the privilege of stomping the Eagles out of the playoff hunt. Not that anyone thinks the entire NFC East is actually going to finish 8-8 with the Eagles taking the tie-break, but if the Jets handle business this weekend and the Cowboys don’t find another way to lose, the Eagles will be award a losing record for the season and a be swept out of the hunt.

But, of course, I’m losing hair over this game. The Eagles began as the dream team, became a mockery, devolved into a nightmare, but are suddenly healthy and dangerous. The Eagles’ five wins have come in important games (excluding Week 1 versus the Rams). They’ve won 3 of 4 divisional games.

Nick: I do think there is something to be said for the Eagles’ propensity to show up for big games. With their inflated self-worth as a “Dream Team” (how many times do you think we can say that in one post?), it makes sense that they would get up for quality opponents and play down to the level of lesser teams. The team is down, but not out; all bets are off when it comes to a Cowboys or Giants collapse. Besides, I still think they’re prideful, Vick especially with his quest for redemption and his desire to live up to that $100 million contract. (Speaking of his redemption, I love how every headline when someone plays the Eagles is “Team X Prepares for Dogfight with Eagles.” So tasteless and classless. And I couldn’t approve more.)

Mike: If you want to name our preview, “Jets Fly to Philly for a Dogfight,” I’ll fully support it.

If anything their pride has hurt them this season, and for Vick especially his pride has sidelined him. He thought that he’d play up to his worth by sustaining huge blows, break him hand, suffering concussions and still playing. Yet, he hasn’t produced in the one category that actually makes fans, coaches, and executives appreciate your worth: wins.

Nick: And Vick won’t even be 100% healthy, either. He admitted to being in a lot of pain from the beating he took from the Dolphins defense, because apparently he’s a fragile little thing (prison must have been rough). Okay, I’m kidding, please don’t kill me as the centerpiece of your new human fighting ring, Mr. Vick.

This is an offense that has been putting up a lot of yards, but not so many points. Philly is 3rd in rushing (almost 150 yards behind LeSean “Shady” McCoy) and 11th in passing (250 yards per game), good for the 4th most yards in the league behind only New England, New Orleans, and Green Bay. Not bad company. But they’re just 15th in scoring, averaging just 22.8 points per contest despite racking up nearly 400 yards every week.

How do you think the Jets defense will fare against the Eagles attack? Can they manage to stop the run unlike the rest of the year, or will Jim Leonhard’s season-ending knee injury completely derail their chances against a lefty quarterback not nearly as pathetic as Tyler Palko?

Mike: The Jets are riding high right now and averaging over thirty points in their last three games. And on the other side of the ball, the defense held Kansas City to only 63 yards rushing last week. But the Jets are still playing from behind, because one slip-up can really hurt their playoff chances.

McCoy will be the key this weekend. If the Jets shut him down, then the game is over. As far as I’m concerned, if Vick drops back, the Jets will punish him with a mouth full of home-grown dirty. So how can they stop the best running back in the league? Having Mike DeVito back will be a huge factor. First of all, he went to the University of Maine… that’s almost as if he went to Colby… so he’s the man. When DeVito singlehandedly takes care of business, the Jets usually win. He has twice as many solo tackles in wins than losses. DeVito can change a game easily… remember Week 1 against Dallas? Yeah, it was DeVito that sacked Romo and forced the eleventh-hour fumble. His return is a huge boost the defense.

Nick: For some reason, McCoy hasn’t been able to put together many impressive performances lately. He was held to less than 2 yards per carry last week against the Dolphins, and two weeks before that, he had just 10 carries for 31 yards, mostly because the Patriots sprung for 38 points and forced Vince Young to throw errant passes all day long. But McCoy averaged 4.9 yards per carry in the two games sandwiched around that Patriots game, alternating good and bad performances every other week. Mike DeVito be damned, that means you’re due to watch Shady McCoy spring for some big gains this week (in theory).

Mike: When it comes to trends, the Jets are having a good time breaking them this year. I think I told you this over beers, so you probably don’t remember, but the Kansas City Chiefs, going back to Week 11 of the 2010 season, have gone 5-1, 0-5, 4-0, 0-4…. then they beat the Bears… they think they’re about to start another streak, but uh-oh, Jets bury them in the landfills of New Jersey before the first 2-minute warning.

Even if McCoy can keep his pattern going, he’s only been able to translate big yardage into a win at home once, when he scrambled for 185 yards against Dallas. Otherwise, the Dream Team has really floundered at home, even when he posted 128 against the Giants.

Rex Ryan appears to be most afraid of the Eagles’ speed as well. Do you think the Jets can set the edge and contain the explosive legs of Philadelphia?

Nick: First of all, my mind is a steel trap. Alcohol merely serves as the lubrication to keep it well-oiled and ready to snap shut at a moment’s notice. What’s that term from Beerfest, “drunken recall”? If that actually exists, that makes me an elephant, because nothing will escape me.

To be frank, I’m torn on whether the Eagles can run around the Jets defense. Obviously I want to say yes because I despise everything about the Jets, but then again, I would just be setting myself up for disappointment. Decisions, decisions. Screw it. I think the Eagles will be able to get out on the edge, and make some big plays, at the very least by drawing some dumb penalties on Antonio Cromartie on a deep ball or two that probably wouldn’t have been completions anyway.

That said, I think Philly will be hurt by the fact that Vick will be limited in his ability to scramble and put pressure on the defense with his legs. With his ribs still tender, he has said he won’t be running as much to avoid getting hurt again, which takes away one dimension of his ability to befuddle opposing defenses. I do think he’ll be mobile enough to stay on his feet more than you think when he drops back, but he was sacked 4 times and hit on 6 other dropbacks against Miami.

Mike: When it comes to the Jets containing the pocket, they should have learned some lessons from the Broncos game. And considering the big turnaround they’ve had since that miserable Thursday night, I think it’s fair to say they’ve taken quite a few lessons away from that night. One example of the lessons learned: they used Mark Brunell to simulate Tim Tebow during their practices. Well, that didn’t work because the 41-year-old “Mark Sanchez cannot get hurt” QB is nothing like the young Jesus-incognito. This time around, the Jets are using Isaiah Trufant, the agile cornerback whose ubiquitous dreadlocks were originally drafted into the service of the Eagles, but came to the Jets in the 2010 preseason. Hopefully, the switch to a slightly more believable situational drill will produce better results.

Even if Vick is truly toning down his recklessness, I still believe the Jets will be able to get after him. Considering the amount of times that Vick likes to roll out, he obviously needs a second option when he’s in the pocket. So if the Jets take away the option to scramble, what’s left? Falling to the ground and screaming “Uncle!”? Yeah, this week could be really fun.

The Jets have a clear advantage in one key area: the red zone. The Jets have the #1 red zone offense and they’re playing the lowest ranked red zone defense. If the Jets can produce a short field or put together a solid drive, the last 20 yards will be a stroll.

Nick: Your major advantage in the red zone stems from the fact that the Eagles can’t stop the run to save their lives (since they couldn’t stop the run to save their season, I’m just extending that to its logical conclusion). Reggie Bush piled up over 100 yards on over 7 yards per carry; it wasn’t even thanks to breaking free a big gain, as his longest run was only 16 yards. With Shonn Greene coming into his own recently, he should be able to consistently find some holes against the Wide-9 stance of those Eagles defensive ends.

Can those same defensive ends get some pressure on Mark Sanchez, though? They exploded for 9 sacks last week (plus another 9 QB hits), including 3 each for Trent Cole and Jason Babin. Their cornerbacks also decided to show up for once, holding the Dolphins and the mildly impressive Matt Moore (and his replacement, J.P. Losman) to just 155 yards passing despite being down two scores. Overall, how do you expect the Sanchez-led passing attack to fare this week against the pass rush and “good on paper” DBs of Philly?

Mike: Wanna hear something scary about that question? Rex Ryan seems to share the same concern as you. You and Rex Ryan are on the same page. Maybe you should just join the rebellion against the Empire. (We have awesome X-wings!)

But to actually address that question, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on O-line. D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Wayne Hunter will need to continue to perform at an incredibly high level. Last week they gave up some hits on Sanchez, but considering that Rex Ryan has now blown his end of the bargain in protecting his QB by taking him out when the risk of injury in unnecessary, I’m positive that Ryan has renewed his commitment to protect Sanchez. The speed is the real issue. The Jets have A-grade tackles, but they’re likely to get burned if they let the speed difference overwhelm them. Having a sense for Sanchez’s position within the pocket will be key as they might just have to push Cole and Babin to the outside or inside and hope for the best.

So, pony-up. You said you think the Eagles offense can run through the Jets defense. But then you claim that Vick will be dogging it around the field. (Zing!) And you also think that Jets will be able to Ground ‘n’ Pound a few points with the run. So call it, Green Mountain Boy.

Nick: All right, City Boy. You want me to call it? Fine. Both the Jets and the Eagles are going to be able to move the ball on the ground with relative ease, so it all comes down to which quarterback can be more effective putting the ball airborne. I don’t know why, but for some reason I think the Eagles defense will manage to corral Sanchez and his receivers (it’s probably for no other reason than wanting it to be true), while Vick will find Jackson downfield for big gains (provided he doesn’t celebrate too much and negate the play).

Also, somehow the red zone success of each team completely switches. Crap, I’m going to be totally wrong, aren’t I? I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Screw it! Final Score: Eagles 31, Jets 27

Mike: The only way that the Eagles win this one is if the score stays low. With Jeremy Maclin and Michael Vick both “sick as a dog,” they’ll need the defense to keep the Jets ineffective. But the Jets have scored 99 points in the last three games. Hey, Bart Scott how quickly will the Jets break the century mark?

Bart: Can’t wait!

Nick: What does that even mean, Bart?!

Mike: What he’s trying to say is, “You’re welcome, Philadelphia, for your first losing season since 2005.” Final Score: Jets 27, Eagles 17

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