Packers vs. Jets is this weekend, and what once looked like an automatic W is now looks like a must-win. One of the benefits of living in NYC is being surrounded by fans for teams all across the nation and fans for the local teams. While I am currently avoiding Giants fans, I decided to take advantage of the local expertise and get some insights from my good friend and life-long Jets fan Eric Weiss.
Strength – Run Game
Weakness – Forced Throwing Situations
Wildcard – Breece Hall
The Jets are coming off their best offensive showing of the year against what was thought to be a premier defense in the Miami Dolphins, and a lot of that is due to their ability to run the ball. As a team, they ran the ball 33 times for 135 yards and 4 TDs as opposed to their 21 passing attempts.
As Eric pointed out, this will be the first time all season that they have had the same OL in back to back weeks. Teams with shuffling offensive lines like to get them moving forward, wearing down the DL to take some edge off that pass rush when it comes and that is exactly what the Jets were able to do.
They also have helped their offensive line by operating on mostly quick passes. Only one pass went over 21 yards and that was a catch and run by their star rookie RB Breece Hall. Hall led the team in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and receiving yards. Eric was quick to point out that the stats look great, but the eye test looks even better. He is elusive out of the backfield and has the explosiveness that makes a player that is looking to break one every single time he touches the ball.
Where this team starts to struggle is when they forgo the run game and operate purely out of Zach Wilson’s hands (sound familiar?). Wilson has been borderline elite when he is not under pressure and targeting the middle of the field, but he struggles to completely take control of the game. If defenses can take advantage of a shaky OL and apply some pressure he tends to lose his composure and fall back into his rookie tendencies. He is a promising young QB, but one that still needs the threat of the run game to operate at full capacity.
The Packers are going to once again have their hands full with a backfield that has a top 5 duo with the unmentioned Michael Carter operating on early downs and short yardage situations. Both Carter and Hall will be another huge test for the DL and the LBs.
Kenny Cark and Co. kept Saquon under check last week for a while, but were unable to put together a whole game. Meanwhile Walker and Campbell had multiple blown assignments in the pass game and looked last at times helping out the run. This is a huge game for the first round pick and big money LB. They need to turn it on and show they can take handle the backfield in both facets of the game. However if Green Bay doesn’t clean it up with their front seven.. for lack of better words, if you have either of these RBs in fantasy, start them.
The pass defense also needs a big enhancement from last week. As Eric pointed out to me, when Wilson has had time the last two weeks he has looked poised and lethal. He takes what the defense gives him underneath and attacks the middle of the field.
This is a BIG problem for a defense that plays soft defense, has two struggling safeties, and can’t cover a crossing route to save their lives. The Packers will NEED to do what fans have been asking for all season long: Play press coverage and get to the the QB. If our (supposedly) elite CBs can throw off the timing of routes and our line can make Wilson feel some pressure, I think we could finally see some PBUs and INTs this game. Key word there: IF.
Strength – Passing Downs
Weakness – Run Defense
Wildcard – Bryce Huff
Like the Packers, the Jets have invested heavily in their defense and it is starting to pay off. On the outside, corners DJ Reed and fourth overall pick Sauce Gardner have been one of the strongest cornerback duos in league through five weeks. DJ Reed is only giving up 88 yards in coverage, the 5th lowest in the league and Gardner is posting a 50% completion percentage when targeted, the lowest among rookie CBs.
Up front, Eric mentioned that Quennin Williams looks like a new player this year. NFL coaches often say it takes a few years for DL to develop in the NFL (cough cough Devonte Wyatt) and it looks to be the case with Williams. He is “wreaking havoc” in both the pass and the run game as the clear leader of the front seven.
Williams is not the only DL to make an impact. In week 5, their top 4 rated players on defense per PFF were all along the defensive front. They had two separate players break the Jets record for most QB hits in a game and totaled 31 pressures. The most impressive part is that they accomplished this with one of the lowest blitz rates in the NFL. They trust that front group to get the QB and trust their corners to shut down the outside.
The weakness is in the middle of defense. Eric said that the reason they are getting to the QB is because their defensive line is full of twitchy, fast guys who can get around offensive linemen that are on their heels. However, this sacrifices the size and build that normally comes with a run stopper. They have the same weakness at the second and third level where their LBs and Safeties (RIP Jamaal Adams) have been exploited in both the pass and run game.
Their defensive wildcard is EDGE Bryce Huff. A healthy scratch in week 1-3, he has come on as one of the top situational edge rushers in the game in the last two weeks. The Packers will only see him on pure passing downs, but when they do they better account for him.
Aaron Rodgers and Matt Lafleur are going to have to do EXACTLY what everyone watching the games have asked them to in this game. Run the ball and attack the middle middle of the field. The Packers cannot allow themselves to either get behind late, or abandon the run early. If Rodgers is throwing sideline passes to Lazard being blanketed by Sauce and Reed all game, we will lose.
The battle in the trenches will be an interesting one. Jenkins looked a little bit like his old self last week and all in all, the OL held up well. That is if you discount RG Royce Newman. Newman has consistently been the biggest weakness up front. Last game he allowed 4 of our 5 pressures, and you can bet the Jets are aware of just that. Look for Quinnen Williams to line up over him, and look for him to lose. (*whispers* Zach Tom time?)
If Green Bay can stick to their game plan and lean on their premier RBs, they should be able to move the ball with no problem. But if they refuse to even try to run against loaded boxes and start playing McCarthy offense again, they could be in for their second loss to a NY team in two weeks.
Eric: Jets 21 – Packers 27
PJ: Jets 17 – Packers 20
Eric is a realist, which is why I chose to talk shop with him. He knows they have a chance and he knows the Jets know that too. He pointed out with their youth, they have the confidence to win every game but the inexperience to lose every game. His final sentiment was that Jets may be riding a little too high right now and the Packers could very well be coming back from London quite pissed, and I don’t mean drunk (London joke).
We also agreed that if either team throws the ball more than 30 times, that team will lose.
I am scared about this game. I do think that Eric could be right and we could come back with an edge. Pissed off Rodgers is unstoppable, right? RIGHT? But I am just not sure that all holds true. We need leaders to step up on and off the field. We need to communicate on defense. We need to trust the run game and trust the schemes. We need all 22 players to play smart, and hard for all 4 quarters.
Then we win.
PJ is an Ohio native who was fortunate enough to be born into the green and gold family through his father who grew up in Green Bay. He now resides in NYC where he is an avid fan and fantasy football player. You can follow him on twitter at @PJsPack_.