The Jets head out west this week for the 4th time this season to take on the San Francisco 49ers (4-8). They will try to put a horrible performance against the Denver Broncos last week behind them and look to pad their lead in the AFC East. Currently they are one game ahead of the Patriots and Dolphins for the division lead. This would seem like the perfect scenario for the Jets coming off that loss last week. The 49ers are one of the league's worst teams, and on paper it looks like the Jets should run away with a "W" this week. But after last week, you never can tell.
Lately, the Jets have not been airing it out like they were earlier in the season. This is the time to let Brett Favre be Brett Favre. San Francisco currently is ranked 28th in the league in passing yards allowed. That all sounds well and good, but then again the Broncos were ranked 27th and the Jets did nothing against them in the air. The Jets game plan has been calling for Favre to dink and dunk his was to managing a game. It was working great during their five game winning streak, but Favre was brought here for two reasons. One, he knows how to win and win big games. Two, he has a better arm then Chad Pennington. The conditions will be a lot better this week than last. The weather in the Bay area calls for 61 degrees with a 10% chance for rain. This will probably be the Jets warmest game the rest of the season, unless they get to Tampa on February 1st.
The Jets best receiver over the past 3 weeks has been Dustin Keller. He has become Favre's favorite target in the "dink and dunk" offense. The Broncos did a good job taking Laveranues Coles out of the game plan last week and limiting Jerricho Cotchery to 40 yards on four catches. The Jets and Favre need to get them the ball this week to re-establish the passing game. Keller has been becoming a threat over the middle of the field as of late, but that will be tougher this week against the 49ers outstanding second year linebacker Patrick Willis who will be out there waiting for him. Keller will probably still end up with 5-6 catches, but Willis will be on him so Coles and Cotchery need to get some distance from the corners and make some plays.
The Jets ground attack continues to improve with each passing week. Thomas Jones, who leads the AFC in rushing with 1,088 yards and is 4th in the NFL, had another big day last week running the ball. He tore up the Broncos for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and should have another big game this week. The 49ers give up about 108 yards per game on the ground. Jones should be able to rack up another 100 yard game with the way the offensive line has been playing. One main key for the Jets is to get Leon Washington more touches. Last week he only touched the ball 5 times on offense. He may be the team's MVP to this point this year, and he needs to get at least 10-12 touches a game. That would still give Jones about 20 which should get him his 100 yards.
New York's run defense had its worst game of the season last week, giving up 129 yards to rookie running back Peyton Hillis. He was the first 100 yard rusher the Jets defensive line has allowed this season. They will have a tough task this week against power back Frank Gore, but I think they will rebound. They are still ranked 4th in the league in rushing, giving up 82 yards per game. The Jets do need to step up the pass rush this week. Last week was only the second time this season they had zero sacks in a game. They are still ranked 5th in the NFL with 35 sacks, but most of those came over the first 9 weeks of the season. They need to establish the pass rush and force the 49ers to make mistakes.
If they are sticking with their recent pattern, the pass defense should have a good game this week. Last week, Jay Cutler threw for 357 yards against the secondary in the Broncos 34-17 win. This week the Jets will face Shaun Hill. He has thrown for over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns in only 5 games this season. He led the 49ers to a 10-3 win over the Bills in Buffalo last week. His numbers do not jump out at you, but the Jets secondary has been making young inexperienced quarterbacks look like All-Pro's this season. It looks like the Jets will get a boost this week with the potential return of linebacker David Harris. With him back in the middle, it should allow the safeties to play back and help out the corners.
There are only four games remaining for the Jets to get to the playoffs. I believe the Jets will only go as far as Favre can take them. When he is on, the Jets can hang with anyone in the league. But when he is off, a lot of other weaknesses are exposed. The keys for Gang Green this week is A) tighten up the secondary; B) get Leon Washington more touches; C) get the ball to your top wide receivers; and D) pressure the QB. If the Jets can manage this, then they will win this game. If not, then they may be scratching and crawling their way to January. Jets win 27-13.