Tale Of The Tape: New York Jets At Carolina Panthers
- QuarterbackAfter five straight awful performances, Geno Smith broke out of his slump and had a decent game against the Raiders in Week 14 as he completed 16-of-25 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Smith has been confused by the defensive alignments and coverages he has seen, and he could be in for an nightmarish performance against the ferocious Panthers.The bubble burst for the Panthers in Week 14, as they saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end against the Saints. Cam Newton was not awful, as he completed 22-of-34 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown, but he will be trying to get his team back on track at home against the Jets. Newton has thrown 20 TD passes and he has also run for six scores.
- OffenseThe Jets want to run the ball with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, but they will find it tough to run against the very tough Panthers run defense. The big test for the Jets will occur on the offensive line, as they try to open holes in the running game and keep Smith upright. Jeremy Kerley is not a star, but he has caught 32-388-3 and he is the Jets’ best receiver.Look for the Panthers to attack the Jets with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert in the running game. Williams can be a game-changer, while Tolbert is a tough short-yardage runner. Steve Smith is a very tough receiver who plays big even though he stands 5-9. Speedy Ted Ginn can be a gamebreaker while tight end Greg Olsen will catch everything thrown his way.
- DefenseThe Jets have been moderately competitive this year because they have played so well on defense. They rank 11th in yards allowed and they are second against the run. Middle linebacker David Harris is the team’s best tackler with 106 stops, and he is also one of their primary leaders in the lockerroom. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie has a team-high 12 passes defensed and three interceptions.The Panthers have one of the best and most aggressive defenses in the league. They rank second in yards allowed and are first against the run. Give much of the credit to middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who leads the team with 113 tackles. Outside linebacker Thomas Davis is one of the fastest players in the league at the position. He has 99 stops and 4.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsWhile the loss of Josh Cribbs (shoulder) hurts the Jets in kick and punt returns, they do a good job in coverage and will not allow opponents to get big plays from their return teams. Nick Folk has had a wonderful season and he has made 28-of-29 FG attempts.The Panthers have done an excellent job of covering kickoffs and punts, as they have not allowed a return of longer than 34 yards. Ginn’s speed makes him a threat to make a big play on the return. Graham Gano has made 6-of-6 FG attempts of 50 yards or longer.
The Jets would have been a lot better off if the Panthers had won their confrontation with the Saints. They did not, and they are going to come after the Jets with everything they have to make sure that they don’t start a downturn. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor