Opposition Research: Shpigel On the Jets

What can you expect from New York on Sunday?

New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles. Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles. (Photo by: Jeff Fusco.)

In this installment of Opposition Research, we spoke with New York Times Jets beat reporter Ben Shpigel to get a better feel for Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium.

What are the Jets’ strengths and weaknesses?

“The Jets’ strength is their defense—their front is ferocious and their secondary scavenges; from their point of view, it better after a $149 million upgrade. Through two games, they have recorded 10 takeaways—or three fewer than they did all of last season. Amazing what better players can do for a defense. When Chris Ivory is healthy (more on that later), he leads their power running game. And Brandon Marshall gives the Jets their first legitimate No. 1 receiver in years.

As far as weaknesses, given the way Ryan Fitzpatrick has played this season, it’s unfair—and imprecise—to call him anything but a strength. His teammates love him, and he’s done exactly what he’s been asked to do: lead the offense while making a modicum of mistakes and big throws when they’re needed.

The Jets are thriving playing complementary football, with the defense forcing turnovers and the running game driving the offense. But Fitzpatrick has had a history of strong starts only to fizzle later on—2011 and 2012 in Buffalo, 2014 in Houston—and it will be interesting to see whether he can maintain this pace, or if he bows to his career trends.”

What injuries are the Jets battling that could impact the game?

“You mean besides Eric Decker’s knee sprain, Chris Ivory’s quadriceps discomfort, Darrelle Revis’s groin strain, Darrin Walls’s hamstring injury, Trevor Reilly’s infected finger, Chris Owusu’s knee surgery and Lorenzo Mauldin’s concussion? I think that because of their cornerback depth, the Jets are almost better equipped to absorb the loss of Revis—even though I’d be stunned if he didn’t play—than they are if Decker and/or Ivory cannot play.

Decker has been a menace in the slot, and Ivory is just a beast—the running back equivalent of the Eagles’ offense, when it is humming: his bruising style just tires out a defense. Reilly and Mauldin’s uncertainty diminishes the Jets’ depth at outside linebacker.”

How would you describe Todd Bowles’s defense and how he’ll likely attack Chip Kelly’s offense?

“Bowles deploys an offensive-minded defense. He loves to blitz, blitz, blitz—and he loves to disguise those blitzes, too. The Jets did both to great effect in their first two games, and I bet we’ll see that again on Sunday. The Jets can afford to play Cover Zero—though they play a lot of Cover 1—because of their faith in cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie locking down the outside.

Bowles is an incredibly sharp defensive coach, and I found his answer interesting Thursday when he was asked whether he relishes scheming against a creative offensive mind like Chip Kelly: “Not really. I think for me especially, it’s the team we play this week and it happens to be Philly. Chip’s an extremely bright, probably one of the brightest minds in the game, if not the brightest. We just have to be ready to go on all cylinders and make sure everybody knows where they need to be.”

What matchup do you think will decide the game?

“I’m not sure if it will decide the game, but I’m awfully curious to see how Byron Maxwell, after getting torched by Julio Jones in Week 1 and then looking all out of sorts on that touchdown by Terrance Williams, fares against Brandon Marshall, who has been everything the Jets could have hoped for so far.

Marshall has showcased the breadth of his abilities on both touchdowns —outwitting Joe Haden at the line and then catching a fade over him in Week 1, then dragging two Colts defenders into the end zone on Monday night—and leads the team with 13 receptions for 163 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, he has also yet to drop a pass this season.”

Who do you think will win and why?

“As bad as the Eagles looked against Dallas, and as well as the Jets played against Indianapolis, I still think this game is going to be close – really close. The potential absences of Eric Decker and Chris Ivory dilute the Jets’ offense, and there’s no way that Sam Bradford can look as lost as he did last Sunday. Right? In the end, though, I think the Jets’ defense continues to shine, turning a second-half takeaway into a touchdown that keys a 20-16 victory.”