Collision Course: 46 D Alums Ryan and Fisher To Face Off Sunday
There are many story lines out there to follow for this Sunday's clash between the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans to feast off of, the obvious being New York coming off the ecstasy of walloping the New England Patriots 16-9 last weekend to improve the Badfellas (Jets) to 2-0 on the year.
Meanwhile, the Titans were just two or three plays away from being 2-0 and not 0-2. Tennessee's two losses to Pittsburgh and Houston were by a combined six points, making it quite clear that Tennessee has to win this weekend against the feisty Jets, if it wants to get its season back on track.
Yet, there are other story lines that are worth following, one of which has to do with the two coaches. Both Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher hail from Buddy Ryan's famed 46 defense. Fisher used to play under the elder Ryan, when he was a safety for the Chicago Bears in 1985, the year the Bears went 15-1 en route to Super Bowl XX triumph.
Rex, was there as well, much younger, just out of college, watching his father create one of the most ferocious monsters in NFL history; a monster that has spawned off menacing clones in Baltimore, Tennessee, and, now, New York.
Therefore, one would have to expect that neither team should be very surprised in what they see from the opposing defenses; this could be a total street brawl. Just look at last year's Divisional playoff game between the Titans and Baltimore Ravens as evidence, when Ryan was the defensive coordinator for Baltimore.
The score was 13-10 in favor of Baltimore, and the game was most famous for its violent hits and absolute mayhem, as neither the Titans nor Ravens' offenses could move the ball.
The score was tied at seven heading into the fourth quarter, with the kickers, Matt Stover for the Ravens and Rod Bironas for the Titans figuring to be the only difference on the evening.
The Titans couldn't muster much of a ground game against Ryan's 46 D. Chris Johnson, who had 284 total yards last week against Houston, was held to just 72 yards rushing by the Ravens that day, and, Kerry Collins' inability to handle the blitz played a big part in the Titans defeat.
It is also worth noting that Fisher's defense held its own as well. The Titans gave up only nine first downs and 211 yards of offense a good Ravens offense; one would figure that Ryan and his coaching staff used that Titans/Ravens game as a key source for their players to study.
Thus begs the question as to what should people expect this weekend, when Fisher leads his Titans into New Jersey to take on Ryan's Jets? Lets go inside this match up:
QUARTERBACK: Mark Sanchez has gotten off to a brilliant start to his NFL career. He has withstood the heavy blitz packages of the Patriots and Texans in the first two weeks, leading the Jets to two victories in the early season. Sanchez has thrown for 435 yards and has completed 60 percent of his passes, something that is very unusual for a rookie quarterback. Sanchez has a lot of promise, and like Joe Flacco in Baltimore, should only get better with time.
Kerry Collins on the other hand has been around a long, long time, and is making his return to the Meadowlands, the place he called home for five years, when he played for the Giants from 1999-2003. He is still the starter in Tennessee, if for nothing else, the blatant fact that the Titans still do not trust Vince Young after his hissy fit last September.
Collins is a mixed bag. Sometimes he is very good, and other times he is just awful. Last year he was a godsend for the Titans leading the team to a 13-3 record, but fell victim to Rex Ryan's blitz happy Ravens defense in the divisional playoff game. How Collins handles the Ryan's schemes this time around will go a long way in determining a winner here. EDGE: JETS.
RUNNING BACK: Both the Jets and Titans feature a dynamic duo at running back, but the Titans are the team seeing the most success at the position right now.
Chris Johnson ran all over the Texans for 284 total yards, and scored three touchdowns in the effort. It should be interesting to see how the Jets play him. Since the Jets blitz so much, it should create some running room in space for Johnson in the short passing game. Expect Tennessee to roll out both Johnson and LenDale White on bubble screens, and dump-off passes all day long in order to tire the Jets front seven.
As for Gang Green, their running game hasn't really started yet. Other than a 38 yard touchdown run by Thomas Jones late in game one at Houston, Jones and Leon Washington have been non-existent. Jones and Washington were shut down by the Patriots last week, and it will be key for the second ranked rush defense to stop this dynamic duo. If Washington and Jones find a hole, either is a sure bet to take it to the house, especially Washington.
Last year when the Jets went to Tennessee, Washington had a huge afternoon, rushing for 82 yards on eight carries, including a 66 yard touchdown run to put the game away for the Jets. Washington will be a key to the game if the Jets are to win it. EDGE: TITANS.
WIDE RECEIVER: The Jets may not have the tallest receivers in the NFL, but they certainly have a nice group of fast receivers. Jerricho Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey and Dustin Keller have provided Mark Sanchez with sure hands, and terrific speed after the catch. Last week as the Jets were driving for the go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter against New England, Cotchery made the catch on the slant, stutter stepped, and sped past two defenders, and nearly outran everyone for a touchdown. All three receivers have over 100 yards in receiving, and each are a threat to break it open for a touchdown.
As for Tennessee their receiving corps has always been looked down upon as one of the worst in the league, however Rutgers University rookie Kenny Britt is looking to change that. Britt leads the Titans in receiving with six catches for 107 yards. The Bayonne, N.J. native has terrific size (6'3") and speed to become a legit number one receiver in the NFL. Meanwhile Justin Gage has done a nice job, while Algee Crumpler is splitting time with last year's standout Bo Scaife at tight end. EDGE: JETS.
DEFENSE: Ah, now for the bread and butter of this game. This game features two doctors from Buddy Ryan's 46 D University, so people should expect to see a very tight chess match from start to finish.
The Jets have been unbelievable. The fact that a group of players, most of whom never played the complicated 46 defense, have picked the scheme up this quickly speaks volumes about Ryan as a teacher. He has schooled his defensive players from day one in the 46, and has been able to get this group to gel just in time for the regular season, as result, Ryan's Jets are the number one defense in football yielding only 241 yards per game.
The Jets have only two quarterback sacks, but they put tremendous pressure on Tom Brady and Matt Schaub through the first two weeks, knocking both of them to the ground during passes, and forcing both to throw on the hurry without a clear open receiver.
In the secondary, Darrelle Revis had his way with Andre Johnson and Randy Moss, holding both receivers to just four catches respectively. It should be interesting to see how he does against a rookie in Britt, this will be a challenge for the rookie to go up against the best corner back in football.
As for Tennessee, they are usually one of the best D's in the league, but not this year. The Titans are 26th in total defense, and 32nd in the league in pass defense. Matt Schaub and Ben Roethlisberger ripped the Titans secondary to shreds in the first two weeks, which is a big reason why Tennessee is 0-2. Oddly enough the Titans are second in rushing defense, surrendering 49 yards per game; however, when opponents see red in the secondary, why run? EDGE JETS.
COACHING: If Rex Ryan is a master motivator for his players with his boastful trash talking, and exuberant confidence, Jeff Fisher is one better. Nobody knows how to play the "us against the world" card better than Fisher. He always finds a way to get the most out of his team in crucial situations, and that should not change here. Fisher knows that this is a great opportunity for the Titans to walk into a loud building and turn the lights out. Can Ryan match emotions with Fisher? We shall see. EDGE TITANS.
UNIFORMS: Yes, I have uniforms as a category; the only reason for this is because this game is tapped as an AFL 50th Anniversary game. The Jets will wear their throwback N.Y. Titans uniforms, a navy helmet, and jersey with gold pants and numbers. The uniform looks like a poor man's version of the Pittsburgh Steelers uni's, but keep in mind the Jets are 3-1 in those uniforms since bringing them into vogue in 2007.
The Titans will be wearing one of the many versions of the Houston/ Tennessee Oilers uniforms. They will be wearing a sky blue helmet with a white oil rig on each side of the helmet, along with a white jersey with sky blue lettering. This is slightly different from the typical Oilers uniforms that fans have grown used to seeing in years past. Those uniforms had a white helmet with a red and blue oil rig decal, with bright, sky blue jerseys, and red piping. EDGE: EVEN, GOTTA LOVE THROWBACK JERSEYS!!
INTANGIBLES: Can Jet fans rev it up like they did against New England for the second straight week? Can the Jets continue to play with reckless abandon week in and week out? That is the question as we tick down to kickoff.
If Jet fans are as loud as they were last week, then for sure it could be enough to carry the team. However, there is a difference from the Patriots and Titans. There is a blood flowing hatred for New England among Jet fans, that same hatred does not exist for Tennessee. The fans will be there, but they won't be as loud from start to finish, unless the Jets are winning the game.
The Titans badly need this game. They are 0-2, and could easily be 2-0, if it weren't for a couple of late field goals that killed them. Expect to see a motivated Tennessee team waltz into Giants Stadium, knowing that they can get their season back on track if they shut up the Jets fans and end talk about how good Rex Ryan's Big Bad Jets have been this year. EDGE: TITANS.
PREDICTION: This figures to be a dog fight from start to finish. Expect Sanchez and company to face their first difficult afternoon against a desperate football team. Remember desperate teams are always dangerous. If the Jets win this game, they have got to jump off to a big 10 or 14 point lead in the first quarter. If Jets allow Tennessee to hang around heading into the fourth quarter, it will give the Titans a ton of confidence, maybe enough confidence that it carries Tennessee to victory. TITANS 24, JETS 21.
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