Florham Park, N.J.– We definitely have an intriguing matchup up on our hands the day of Christmas Eve. Even aside from the area rivalry, back and forth trash talk amongst fans and Rex Ryan hyperbole.
Strictly from a football standpoint this game pits two bipolar teams with some drastically different flaws, and some similar flaws such as inconsistent quarterbacks, against each other for a game that will surely prove impossible to predict. The Jets and Giants are similar in ways they certainly wish they were not, both are hot and cold, up and down teams. As soon as everyone thinks they have either of them figured out, whether anointing them or burying them, they flip the switch and continue to baffle everyone who watches them.
However this week both teams are down and being counted out by many, so only one of them can flip the script and potentially save their season. There will be many matchups within this game that will play a role in determining the winner in the Battle For New York, but there is perhaps none bigger than the Giants relentless defensive line against the Jets leaky offensive line.
“Another good pass rushing team. (They) create pressure with the front four.” Brandon Moore said, “Across the board, (Justin) Tuck, I don’t know about Osi(Umenyiora), if he’s out or not, but inside, especially on nickel downs, third downs, they’ve got guys, end-type guys that come down on the sides, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge.”
After the Eagles pass rush absolutely toyed with the Jets offensive line last week it’s fair to say this is a problem the Jets must fix immediately to have any chance in this game. The one consistent thing about the Jets this year has been, when the offensive line plays well they win and when they play bad they tend to suffer a beat down. With the injury to Nick Mangold early in the season the entire line has battled consistency issues, but it’s no secret that the biggest leak in the unit has been Wayne Hunter.
According to ProFootball Focus.com Hunter had his worst day of the season in Philadelphia posting a dreadful -6.4 rating (hint that’s really bad), Hunter was charged with responsibility for “two sacks, two more knockdowns and a pair of additional pressures.” With a defensive front that consists of pass-rushing specialist such as Justin Tuck, possibly Osi Umenyiora and the most dangerous of them all Jason Pierre-Paul it’s a pretty safe bet to assume the Giants will look to exploit and attack Hunter and it will be up to Hunter and his line mates to make sure they can neutralize this pass rush enough to give their quarterback a fighting chance.
Ryan is known, good or bad, for how he injects humor into his press conferences, but when he was asked about this matchup he didn’t cover up the importance with even the slightest hint of humor which lets you know how seriously he’s taking it.
“I think that’s huge. When you look at it, it’s the number one thing on our offense, the pass rush that the Giants have.” Ryan said, “Obviously when you have those kind of end guys with Pierre-Paul and Tuck and all those guys and Canty, that’s a big, physical group that can really rush the passer. So that’s going to be a huge matchup right there.”
The Giants have been known for their pass rush over the years, but this time it’s Pierre-Paul that has become the most dominating force (against the Packers ProFootballFocus.com gave Pierre-Paul an insane rating of +11.6) on their line and Ryan and these players are well aware of this.
“Well, I think with Pierre-Paul, I think when you look at him, if you’re going to block him with one guy, it’s going to take a player like D’Brickashaw (Ferguson). There are very few Pierre-Pauls in the league.” Ryan said, “There are very few D’Brickashaw Fergusons in the league. But, will he have help sometimes? I’m not going to give you the gameplan, but I think it goes without saying that occasionally he’s going to have some help, I would think.”
“I think he’s a great defense end. I think he’s a young guy with a lot of talent. He’s doing well in this league.” Ferguson said, “I think it’ll be a great battle between our line and myself against him.
“I think he just takes advantage of opportunities given to him. He has a lot of talent. Every year, there’s always one guy or a couple of guys that really have showed themselves to be improved, and I think he’s just really taken advantage of his (opportunities).”
While Ryan said he acknowledges Ferguson would likely get some help to defend Pierre-Paul the bigger problem could be the Giants moving him around, especially if they plan to attack Hunter this way. The Jets must get creative with their protection, keep in extra blockers to chip these pass rushers and they need every man to hold their own and protect their quarterback so he can have time to exploit the Giants biggest weakness, their secondary.
“We’ve got to play well up front and get the ball out of my hand quickly. When you see an open receiver, let it go and trust your eyes, trust your preparation.” Sanchez said, “Same stuff each week, but we’re going to have our hands full. They’re a good defense.”
“They’ve (Giants secondary) been pretty solid. Some of the quarterbacks have had success, but those teams were very good in the passing game and they were efficient, meaning they were on their landmarks, the quarterback was accurate and that’s what we’re going to need this week, so there’s nobody that you just want to go pick on over there. They’re very good and we’re going to have to play our best.”
In order for Sanchez to exploit the Giants secondary they will have to find an answer for stopping this Giants pass rush. There will likely be many different factors that determine the outcome of this game, but if the offensive line plays anywhere near as bad as last week Jets fans and players will feel like their stockings were stuffed with coal on Christmas morning.
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