The 6-7 New York Jets take on the 4-9 Tennessee Titans Monday night and the Jets are in full desperation mode. A loss knocks them out of playoff contention, while a win keeps them barely breathing in the AFC playoff hunt.
If the Jets are to keep their floundering playoff hopes alive, then they need quarterback Mark Sanchez to come up big. That may be asking a lot.
Sanchez has struggled mightily so far this season. Through 13 games, Sanchez has thrown for 2,547 yards, 12 touchdowns and a whopping 13 interceptions. Sanchez's inability to be accurate is a main reason the Jets are under .500.
Sanchez might get a break against the Titans. Tennessee is ranked 27th against the pass in the league, giving up almost 251 yards per game through the air. They allowed 261 passing yards and two touchdowns to Chad Henne of Jacksonville in a Week 12 loss. Sanchez is at at least Henne's equal.
Sanchez will also benefit from the re-signing of wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who is expected to make his Jets debut, despite nursing a balky hamstring. Edwards gives Sanchez a legitimate red-zone threat, something he hasn't had since Plaxico Burress last year.
Additionally, the Titans starting middle linebacker and defensive signal caller Colin McCarthy is out with a concussion. A combination of Tim Shaw and Will Witherspoon will take his place.
Can Sanchez take advantage of this? Can he put his struggles behind him and help keep the Jets alive?
All signs point to yes. The Titans defense is as porous as a worn down spaghetti strainer and running back Shonn Greene should be able to move the chains. That will set up play-action and the Jets can hope that the young Titans linebackers over-pursue.
A solid game plan would include bootlegs, counters and anything that gets linebackers Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers out of position. This will open up the middle of the field, where Sanchez is more accurate. He completes the most passes in the middle of the field on throws less than 10 yards. Manipulating the Titans defense to exploit that area would be wise.
It's time for Sanchez to take control and lead his team into playoff contention. Going up against a woeful Titans defense and implementing a game plan similar to the one described above should give Sanchez and the Jets a good chance to win. But it's up to Sanchez to shake off his previous struggles and do what good quarterbacks do best: win.