NFL New York Jets

New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Atlanta Falcons

1 of 6

New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Atlanta Falcons

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons will play on Monday Night Football in a game that is critical to both teams’ seasons. The Falcons are a disappointing 1-3, and they need a win to get their playoff aspirations back on track.

For the Jets, their 2-2 start has been viewed by many as lucky, and they need a signature victory to prove their legitimacy. However, getting a win in the Georgia Dome is a very difficult thing to do, and the Falcons have compiled a 21-5 regular season record at home since 2010.

The Jets are 0-2 on the road this season, mostly due to their issues with penalties and turnovers. This is a young team, and they are making more than their share of mental mistakes. The Jets lead the NFL in penalties, have the 2nd most turnovers and have the 2nd worst turnover differential. They do not have the talent to overcome these kinds of mistakes, and it is crippling their chances of winning.

As I wrote yesterday, the Falcons are also a terrible matchup for the Jets. They are an excellent passing offense and don’t worry about the run, while the Jets have an outstanding run defense and a merely average pass defense. On the other side of the ball, the best way to beat the Falcons is through the air, but the Jets are far more effective running.

The Jets have a lot to overcome to win this game, and it is certainly going to be an uphill battle. This would be a major upset, and for the Jets to have a chance these are the five things they must do.

2 of 6

Better Coverage from Cornerbacks

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets were shredded by the Tennessee Titans’ passing attack last week, which is nothing compared to Atlanta’s. The Falcons are 3rd in the NFL in passing offense, and Julio Jones leads the league in receiving yards. Roddy White is coming back to health, and the ageless Tony Gonzalez is still very effective.

If the Jets want to win, the coverage must improve. Antonio Cromartie cannot allow Jones to have the big plays that make him so successful. The rest of the Jets’ secondary needs force Matt Ryan to throw to checkdowns or make difficult throws. If the Jets give up big plays, they will lose.

3 of 6

Must Have Strong Pass Rush

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Concurrent with the need for better coverage is the need for a strong pass rush. The Jets are tied for the 3rd most sacks in the NFL this season, and they need that to continue. Atlanta has done a good job protecting Ryan, but if the Jets want to win it is essential that they create pressure.

The Falcons receiving corps is so good that if they have any decent amount of time, someone will get open. The Jets’ front seven needs to protect its secondary by forcing the ball out of Ryan’s hands quickly and preventing the deep throws that make Atlanta so dangerous.

4 of 6

Run the Ball as Much as Possible

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Switching to the offense, a strong run game is essential for the Jets. This will be difficult against Atlanta’s 6th ranked run defense, but they have to take the pressure off Geno Smith. Before last night’s game Bilal Powell was the AFC’s leading rusher, so the Jets are certainly capable of moving the ball on the ground.

If the Jets can establish the run then they can control the clock, which is essential to their chances. They came so close to beating the New England Patriots because the offense dominated time of possession and kept the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands. They need to do the exact same thing to Ryan and the Falcons.

5 of 6

Utilize Short Passing Game

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Top receivers Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill will miss this game, so the Jets’ best receiving options are slot receiver Jeremy Kerley and tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland. The Jets need to be smart and play to their strengths, focusing on short passes designed to get first downs, not touchdowns.

A short passing game will give Smith some confidence building completions, and it will reduce the risk of the turnovers on deep passes that have plagued him. This can also serve as a surrogate running game, and it will slow the Falcons’ pass rush, which the Jets need to do.

6 of 6

No Turnovers

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, turnovers are the story of the Jets’ season. Smith is tied for the league lead with 11 turnovers, and many of them have been completely avoidable mistakes. The Jets lost the Patriots game because of turnovers, and it almost cost them their two wins as well.

If the Jets want to have any chance at winning this game, Smith has to protect the football. The offense is not good enough to overcome these mistakes, and the defense can only do so much when repeatedly asked to defend a short field. If the Jets lose the turnover battle again, they will lose the game.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google