On paper, things don’t look too promising for the Jets heading into Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.
Perhaps it’s fitting then that the 9-4 Panthers are supposed to wear their all-black uniforms -- since the game could double as a funeral for the 6-7 Jets’ playoff hopes.
The Jets enter play as the second-worst scoring team in football, while the Panthers have allowed fewer points than anyone.
Further complicating matters, the Jets have been terrible on the road. They’ve won only one game away from home and scored a total of just 79 points in six games as the visiting team.
And if all that weren’t enough, receiver Santonio Holmes lit a fire under Carolina’s secondary by claiming they were the weakest link of the Panthers’ defense. While the secondary might not be as good as Carolina’s front seven -- which is arguably the best in the NFL -- the team still possesses a top-five pass defense.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith is already likely to be in for a long day and doesn’t need any additional headaches.
Smith has thrown seven interceptions and zero touchdowns in his last three road games – resulting in him being benched twice.
The Panthers are very good at getting after the quarterback, which is going to force Smith to make quick decisions.
Hopefully, for the team’s sake, he makes the right ones.
Carolina ranks first in rushing yards allowed, further putting the onus on Smith.
Though it hasn’t worked very well in the past, the Jets might just have to throw caution into the wind and let Smith throw the ball down the field. If he can get any sort of passing attack going, it will open up a bit of space in the running game and give himself more time and more room to operate.
The Panthers get the bulk of their offense by running the football, and while the total numbers are solid, it’s more quantity than quality. Only four teams run the ball more than the Panthers, but their 4.2 yards per carry is exactly league average.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is quite dangerous with his legs, yet the Jets have a strong enough run defense to force him to use his arm to beat them instead. Newton will throw the occasional interception, so the Jets must capitalize on any potential mistake he makes if they want to stay in the game.
There’s also a slight chance Newton could be without tight end Greg Olsen -- one of his favorite passing targets.
Olsen ranks second on the team in receptions and has been limited in practice this week with a foot injury. If he is unable to play, or even slowed down a bit, it’s a huge blow to their passing game and might lead to them having to run even more.
Antonio Cromartie sometimes gets matched up with the opposing team’s tight end and there’s a possibility he misses the game as well.
Cromartie collided with safety Ed Reed last week and suffered a concussion on the play. He appears to be symptom-free though, so he will get the start as long as he is cleared medically.
Whether Cromartie is in the lineup or not, containing Newton and making him a pocket passer is key. If the Jets are able to stop him from running and rolling out of the pocket, things might get a little more interesting.
You would be hard-pressed though to find very many people who give the Jets a chance to win Sunday. But maybe the momentum and good vibes carry over from last week’s win and they pull off the shocking upset.
One thing we have learned about the Jets through 13 games is that when the expectations are at their lowest, they have a way of proving those who doubted them wrong.