Tale of the Tape: New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons
Something has to give when the Atlanta Falcons entertain the New York Jets in Week 5's Monday night showdown. The Falcons are off to a dreadful 1-3 start thanks to a defense that is surrendering an average of 26 points per game. That could be just the tonic the Jets need, as they come in with a 2-2 mark but an average of just 17 points per contest.
Here's the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:
The Falcons have yet to field their best offensive roster thanks to a pair of key injuries. Running back Steven Jackson will miss his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury, but may make his return to the lineup following Atlanta's Week 6 bye. Wide receiver Roddy White has played through an ankle injury, but he should also benefit from the week off. Atlanta has made do despite the injuries, ranking sixth in the league in yards per game (398.5) and a respectable 13th in points per game (23.5).
While the Jets have struggled to put up points, it hasn't been from a lack of yardage. New York is in the middle of the pack in passing yards per game (243.3) and actually ranks 11th in rushing yards per contest (123). A lack of discipline on behalf of his teammates has made life difficult for rookie quarterback Geno Smith; the Jets' offense ranks first in the NFL with 44 penalties, totaling 345 yards. They've also been sloppy with the ball, losing four fumbles and being on the wrong end of eight interceptions for an AFC-worst 12 turnovers.
The Atlanta pass defense has been abysmal through the opening month of the 2013 campaign, getting gashed for an average of 301 yards per game and nine touchdowns. The Falcons are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete better than 65 percent of their passes - the ninth-worst mark in the NFL - and their seven sacks are the third-fewest in the league. Atlanta is far more stout against the run, surrendering an average of 92.3 yards per game on the ground - tied with the Carolina Panthers for seventh overall.
Even with the departure of superstar defensive back Darrelle Revis, the Jets possess one of the top defenses in football. Only six teams are surrendering fewer passing yards per game than New York, which is holding the opposition to 204 per contest. The rush defense is even better - the Jets have permitted the fewest total yards on the ground (317), with their 79.3 per game average second only to Denver. One area of concern is the turnovers; New York has just one fumble recovery and one interception through four games.
Edge: New York
Atlanta ranks in the middle of the pack in average kick return yards against (24), but has defended just four returns all season. The punt return defense is a far different story, with the Falcons allowing just 13 return yards on eight attempts. Atlanta has returned just two kickoffs for a total of 46 yards, while running back eight punts for 35 yards. Veteran placekicker Matt Bryant is 8-for-9 on field-goal opportunities so far in 2013, including makes from 23, 45 and 25 yards in last weekend's 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots.
The Jets have had one of the worst kickoff return games in the league, averaging just 16.8 yards in seven attempts - ahead of only the Green Bay Packers at 12.1. New York isn't much better in the punt return game, with its 5.1-yard average on eight returns good for 26th in the NFL. The Jets are allowing the fourth-highest kickoff return average (27) and the sixth-highest punt return average (11.3). New York placekicker Nick Folk is a perfect 8-for-8 in field-goal changes so far in 2013, with all of them coming from at least 30 yards out.
"You've got to play it respectfully and understand that (Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan does get the ball out quick and you have to understand that there are going to be chances for us to make plays. We just have to be sure that we go out and capitalize when we can." - Jets CB Antonio Cromartie
"It's not just one area, not just one group. We had some protection issues. We had some routes that weren't run right. We had some drops. We had some missed throws. I can assure you we are addressing it as a coaching staff with our team." - Falcons head coach Mike Smith on last week's loss to the Patriots