Monday Night Football Preview: Bear Raid
Confession time, amigos y amigas: although I grew up in Minnesota, I am a New York Jets fan. So, when Rex's brigade of merry misfits decided that hanging onto an 18-point lead last week just wasn't their cup of tea, I got countless texts from my college roommate that only contained laughter. Competency is for nerds!
Now, after allowing 209 yards to Jordy Nelson, the Jets get Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. That should be fun. But, they've got Dee Milliner, the best corner in the league, so what could go wrong?
Let's use numberFire's wizardish game preview of the game for premium subscribers to break this puppy down and see what we should expect when tonight's game gets underway.
Can the Jets Stop the Bear Raid?
I'd bet that even the league-leader in IDGAF, Jay Cutler, got a little excited when he saw this matchup. However, a look at the Jets' Net Expected Points (NEP) numbers may temper that excitement...just a wee bit, though.
If you're new to numberFire, you can read more about NEP in our glossary. It's basically a measure of offensive and defensive efficiency. On each play, a team has an expected number of points they will score on that drive. The following play will either increase or decrease that expected total. Add all that up, and you've got yourself a sweet little measuring stick that can help measure the effectiveness of each team's respective units.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Jets ranked 16th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play (which takes into account strength of schedule). Yes, this also includes their bout with the Raiders, but the adjusted portion of the equation will help control for Oakland's hatred of points. This really isn't that bad, although it isn't great, either.
The thing that may be helping the Jets here is their defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison are three large, quarterback-gobbling human beings. When they're facing an offensive line missing its center and left guard, Smokin' Jay could put his reduced lung capacity to the test with all of the potential scrambling.
With that said, numberFire's projections are all-aboard the Cutty Express. Jay is projected to throw for 283.51 yards with 1.97 touchdowns and 0.76 interceptions. Marshall was the third-ranked receiver entering the weekend at a projected 6.81 receptions for 89.25 yards and 0.66 touchdowns. Jeffery wasn't too far behind, despite the injury concerns, with 5.95 receptions for 78.26 yards and 0.50 touchdowns. If you have the option, it's not a bad idea to flood your line-up with these three tonight.
Can Geno Protect the Football?
Confession time, Part II: I changed pretty much every password I had to be related to Geno Smith back in January of 2013 with the hopes he'd eventually be a Jet. They've been changed, so don't bother trying to jack the $15 in my bank account. I peed a little when they snagged him in the second round. And now here we are, asking the above question.
The reason we are forced to ask such a blurgh question is because Geno was lost last year. His -42.87 Total NEP (which takes into account both the player's rushing and passing abilities) was the third worst among all quarterbacks, besting only Eli Manning and Blaine Gabbert. Great company to keep!
Fortunately for Gang Green, Smith has looked a significant amount better this year. Even if his 8.24 Total NEP ranks 18th among quarterbacks, it's still not negative. They are no longer losing points every time the ball is in Geno's hands! Progress!
The algorithms don't seem to see this translating to a positive Week 3 performance. Geno is projected at 194.94 yards on 29.83 attempts (6.54 yards per attempt) with 1.13 touchdowns and 0.78 interceptions. The team as a whole is projected to turn the ball over 1.87 times. After the Bears forced four San Francisco turnovers last week, that's certainly conceivable. But that's why the Jets have devoted so much to their ground game.
Through the first two weeks of the season, New York had the fourth lowest pass-to-run ratio in the league at 0.92. Both Chris Johnson (57.36) and Chris Ivory (42.69) are projected to surpass 40 yards on the ground, and the team as a whole is at 127.91. With this game as close as it could potentially be, Geno chuck-jobs are even more important than normal to avoid. If the Bears get another four turnovers, pencil another tally in the win column for them.
Which Team Comes Away 2-1?
Both of these teams appear to be in very winnable divisions this year. The Patriots barely knocked off the Raiders, the Bills lost to San Diego in a 1:00 East-Coast game, Green Bay and Detroit played the world's most civil game of whack-a-mole, and the Vikings are in all kinds of doo-doo. These teams could do something this year.
On that aforementioned premium game preview, it lists other games similar to this one based on teams that are highly comparable to these two. Of the top eight most similar games, four would have the Bears winning and four would have the Jets.
The top match is a game between the Cardinals and the Seahawks in November of 2002. The Seahawks (the proxy for the Bears in this instance) trounced the Cardinals, 27-6. Matt Hasselbeck went for 260 yards with a touchdown and no picks while Jake Plummer threw a pair of interceptions. The take-away here is, again, if Chicago can force Geno into mistakes, they could run away with it.
One of the other contests provides a potential blueprint for the Jets. This one comes from a December 2007 match-up between the Bills and the Dolphins. The Bills, representing the Jets, were led by future Hall-of-Famer Trent Edwards and took home the victory, 38-17. Edwards only threw the ball 23 times and didn't turn it over once. How do you score 38 points while only putting it in the air 23 times? You let the ground game dominate. And they did just that.
In that game, pre-AARP Fred Jackson combined with none other than Beast Mode himself, Marshawn Lynch to tote the rock 38 times for 222 yards. This is not an assertion that Johnson/Ivory are Jackson/Lynch. Not a chance. It's more just showing that the Jets could still get the job done offensively without exposing Geno too much.
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