Sunday, 1 p.m.
Spread: Eagles -7
The Giants did a pretty good job last Sunday of shutting down an Eagles offense that had been rolling over the past month. The Jets could probably learn a lot from that.
But there was one Eagles drive in that game that should provide them the best lesson of all.
The one drive that Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich should show his players was the Eagles’ 10-play, 66-yard touchdown drive, on which the Eagles ran nine times (for all 66 yards). It was the only time all game when Eagles coach Nick Sirianni truly committed to a rushing attack that had powered Philly’s offense since Halloween.
And for those 4 ½ minutes, they steamrolled over the Giants.
Unless Sirianni has lost his mind, the Jets should expect to see a lot more of that on Sunday afternoon.
And that’s a problem because the Jets’ defense isn’t good, and its tackling has been particularly bad. The idea of small, shifty running backs like Miles Sanders and Boston Scott running free in the open field, or dangerous quarterback Jalen Hurts — if he plays — running out of the pocket and making defenders miss, is a nightmare for this defense. They’ve averaged 215 yards on the ground over the last five games.
They might top 250 against a Jets defense that is ranked 27th in the NFL against the run.
That’s the issue for the Jets and their struggling defense. There’s no worry about Hurts – who is “questionable” with an ankle injury — as a passer. Actually, his backup, Gardner Minshew, might be more dangerous through the air. The worry is what the Eagles can do to the Jets on the ground. There is big-play potential for sure, but the worry is deeper than that. The more the Eagles can run, the more they run the clock and keep the Jets’ offense off the field.
All jokes aside, that’s not a good thing because the Jets’ offense is still struggling when quarterback Zach Wilson is playing. Limiting his opportunities to move the ball is probably the worst thing that can happen. He had 10 drives against the terrible Texans last Sunday. On half of them the Jets went three-and-out.
In other words, unless this becomes Wilson’s breakout game –and at this point, don’t believe it until you actually see it – the opportunities will likely be limited for the Jets’ struggling offense, which probably means they’re not going to score many points. That will put the game in the hands of their defense.
And against the Eagles rushing attack, they are probably overmatched.
How overmatched? Well, it was just a month ago that the Jets went into Indianapolis and gave up 172 yards on 19 carries to Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and another 74 yards on six carries to his backup, Nyheim Hines. The Colts had 260 rushing yards in all in their 45-30 win. And it wasn’t just all about them running to sit on a big lead. They had 134 yards at the half.
The Jets’ defense was a disaster in that game. Their defensive line was shoved aside as the Colts created holes and the tackling by the linebackers and secondary was as bad as it has been all season. They have to fix that and improve exponentially to have a chance in this game.
And so far, there haven’t been many signs that they have.