This Sunday is extremely important to the New York Jets and their improbable quest for an AFC Wildcard berth. Standing at 6-7, they are battling with three other teams. Technically, a loss does not eliminate Gang Green unless the Baltimore Ravens win. It’s not impossible, but New York’s focus is, and should be, on winning out. Next up is a huge task. On Sunday, head coach Rex Ryan leads his Jets into Charlotte against deserved MVP candidate Cam Newton’s 9-4 Carolina Panthers. Currently double-digit underdogs, it looks clear that odds are against the visitors.
One key in pulling off an upset would be for this team to perform one of their strengths. Pass rush is something that they excel in this year after struggling in past seasons. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson continues towards superstar status, having registered 10 sacks already. Rookie Sheldon Richardson’s presence allowed him to take off because he doesn’t face as many double teams from offensive line. Quinton Coples comes from his new outside linebacker position, and gets pressure constantly. Although three sacks seemingly does not back up this point, he often is in the opposing backfield. Again, these players must put pressure on Newton. With 20 touchdown passes through 13 games, he seems on is way to smashing his career-high of 21 scores. Of course simply locking down on receivers is not enough against Carolina. Newton averages six yards per carry, and has six rushing scores. Veteran wide out Steve Smith may be in his 13th season, but he remains a threat in the passing game. Jets corners face a tough challenge in him, Brandon LaFell and tight end Greg Olsen. This secondary will get destroyed if Newton has too much time in the pocket, so their front needs to make him uncomfortable.