Jets vs. Rams: 7 Keys to the Game for New York
With the Jets at 3-6 and the Rams and 3-5-1, this game doesn't exactly have playoff implications.
Mathematically speaking, it is a little early to call this game what it is: a draft position decider. That said, there is still a lot on the line for both teams, notably players futures with the franchise. Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford both need strong finishes in 2012 to cement themselves as starters in 2013 and another loss might throw gas on the fire underneath Rex Ryan's hot seat.
Without any further adieu, here are some keys to Sunday's game for Gang Green.
Simply put, turnovers are sinking the Jets.
They put the defense in short-field scenarios and take points off the board for the offense.
Mark Sanchez has nine interceptions and four lost fumbles (eight total fumbles) on the season. Not surprisingly, New York is 1-5 in games that Sanchez turns the ball over two or more times.
The ground game has been better. Shonn Greene has three fumbles on the season, but none were lost. Even the Jets special teams, usually an unwavering source of team strength, turned the ball over last week against Seattle.
Despite the Jets 15 defensive takeaways, the team still has a negative turnover differential.
If the Jets want a W, they have to take care of the B-A-L-L.
Let Shonn Greene Run
In the three games where Shonn Greene was given the most rushing attempts this season, the Jets have all three of their wins.
These include his 27 attempts against Buffalo Week 1, 19 against Miami Week 3 and 32 against Indianapolis Week 6.
On the season, Greene is averaging 17.1 attempts per game. He has only gotten over 20 touches once this season, coming in his monster 161-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Colts.
If the Jets want to take the pressure off Sanchez, let Greene get the ball more. St. Louis is a middle-of-the-pack rush defense, currently ranked 16th in the NFL in total rushing yards allowed and giving up 4.3 yards per carry.
Hurry Sam Bradford
The Jets defense undoubtedly benefits from matching up against a quarterback that hasn't exactly set the world on fire this season.
Sam Bradford's numbers have been okay: 62.2 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He currently sits at 19th in the NFL in ESPN's total QBR, with a score of 53.1.
While he isn't on Mark Sanchez's level of ineptitude, he is still a mistake-prone young quarterback that can be disrupted by the Jets passing attack.
If the Jets defense can break down the pocket and disrupt his timing early in the game, it will set a strong tone and make things difficult for St. Louis' offense.
Get Jeremy Kerley Involved in the Offense
In the absence of Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley has shown flashes of brilliance for the Jets offense.
Week 7 against New England, Kerley posted 120 receiving yards on seven receptions. That game he was targeted 11 times.
Last week against the Seahawks, Kerley was targeted eight times and had five receptions for 57 yards, but 43 of those yards came on one passing play. His remaining four catches totaled 14 yards.
Kerley is currently listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but is expected to play.
The Jets need to continue to let Mark Sanchez target Kerley, but on 10-15 yard routes rather than the check-down bailouts Jet fans are all too familiar with seeing in the New York's passing game.
Stand Behind Sanchez
This key is something the fanbase can contribute to.
Regardless of who you believe should be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets, the simple fact is Mark Sanchez is the guy.
He is number one on the depth chart, he takes reps with the first team offense and he will be the man under center when the offense steps on the field Sunday afternoon.
There has been a lot of speculation because of unnamed sources in the Jets locker room stirring the pot of the quarterback controversy in the wake of last week's loss. The important thing to remember is that the only source that matters is Rex Ryan. If he says Sanchez is the starter, as he did earlier this week, he is the starter.
There no sense in causing more problems by beginning to turn on your own team. What could possibly be a bigger confidence killer for a quarterback than knowing your teammates and fans don't even want you on the field? If Tebow is named the starter at some point during the season I'll support it; if he isn't, I'll support it. Either way, I'm going to wait to hear it straight from Rex Ryan's mouth before I start buying into the buzz/debate of Tebow/Sanchez.
Shut Down Stephen Jackson
This might be one of the best opportunities the Jets run defense will have all season to prove themselves.
At 1,305 rushing yards allowed on the season, the Jets are currently the fourth worst defense in the NFL against the rush.
They are giving up rushing yards at a clip of 145.0 per game.
As a team, the Rams are 12th in the league in rushing offense, averaging 112 yards per game.
That said, their rushing attack is spearheaded by Steven Jackson, who only has two rushing touchdowns and one 100-plus yard game so far in 2012.
The Jets major blemishes have come against backs like Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch, but the team has been able to contain the committee rushing attacks of teams like Pittsburgh, Miami and New England. If Gang Green's defense can keep Jackson under 100 yards, it drastically improves their chances of emerging victorious.
Limit Amendola's Touches
The Rams don't have an elite-level receiver like many of the teams the Jets have already this season.
While New York's secondary won't have to worry about receivers of Mike Wallace, Andre Johnson or Reggie Wayne's caliber, they will have to keep their eye on Danny Amendola.
Amendola has surprised many this season as the Rams' leading receiver. Through an injury-riddled 2012, he's still managed to post almost 500 receiving yards and two touchdowns in six games. He is fresh off a 11-reception, 102-yard performance against the 49ers defense.
Jets corner Antonio Cromartie will undoubtedly be assigned Amendola. If he is able to continue to play his lock down one-on-one defense, Sam Bradford will have to look for other options downfield. The Jets have always earned their sacks as a product of their strong downfield coverage, and that will definitely be the story Sunday.
The Cromartie/Amendola matchup should be watched closely as it may be one of the most important in deciding which team comes out on top.