The Giants will attempt to get back over .500 and remain in the NFC East title chase when they face the Jets Saturday in MetLife Stadium. Although the game will be played on their home field, the Giants will be the visiting team. Last week, the Giants lost to the Washington Redskins, 23-10, evening their record at 7-7. They trail Dallas by one game in the division race with two to play and will host the Cowboys on New Year's Day. The Jets lost in Philadelphia last week and currently hold the sixth and final AFC playoff berth with an 8-6 record. The Giants have won their last four regular season games against the Jets (in 1996, '99, 2003 and 2007) and lead the series, 7-4.
The Jets' offense is ranked 26th in the NFL with an average of 306.0 yards per game. They are 21st in both rushing yards (104.1) and passing yards (201.9). The Jets are seventh in scoring, averaging 24.7 points a game. They are the NFL's most efficient team inside their 20-yard line, where they've scored 32 touchdowns in 47 opportunities (68.1 percent).
Quarterback Mark Sanchez is sometimes streaky, but he is often at his best late in games; he has 10 career comeback wins in the fourth quarter or overtime, including four this season. He has career highs of 23 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns. Sanchez has thrown 18 touchdown passes and two interceptions in the red zone this year. He seldom throws long, because the Jets have such a productive short and medium-range passing game. Sanchez is a deceptive ball-hander who can fool defenses with his play-action fakes. He is comfortable throwing on the move and he has 11 career rushing touchdowns. Sanchez's backup is 18-year veteran Mark Brunell, who was a starter for many years under Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville.
The Jets like to run different versions of the wildcat, including formations in which Sanchez is split wide, he is standing next to a running back or he is off the field. Running backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley are the most frequent recipients of direct snaps.
Greene, who leads the team with 941 rushing yards, has a tendon injury in his pinky finger but is expected to play. He is a smart, instinctive power runner with good vision and balance. Greene will put his foot down and take off when he spots a hole. He is a competitive blocker in pass protection. Tomlinson, the 11-year veteran, has only 91 touches this season as the Jets have attempted to keep him fresh for the stretch run. Tomlinson missed two recent games with a left knee sprain. Although he has 59 rushing attempts, Tomlinson is more of a factor in the pass game, where he has been the team's fourth most-targeted receiver. He has quick feet at the line of scrimmage and is still a threat to make a big play at any time. Joe McKnight, who has a shoulder injury, is an explosive change-of-pace back who can also catch passes.
Fullback John Conner is a productive short-yardage runner who squeezes through creases with foot quickness and agility. He is also a good blocker with a feel for taking the right angles.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes is the Jets' most targeted receiver. He is second on the team with 47 catches and is tied with Plaxico Burress with a team-high eight touchdown receptions, including two game-winners. Holmes is an outstanding athlete with speed and a quick release who can be a game-changer with the ball in his hands. He is a deep threat with double-move ability. Holmes is also dangerous running on an end-around. Burress, the former Giant, has a huge strike zone and 38 catches. With his length (6-5) and jumping ability, he creates mismatches on jump balls, particularly in the end zone. Kerley is an athletic, sure-handed and improving third receiver with a good burst and strong hands. Patrick Turner plays about 12 snaps a game as the fourth receiver. The third-year pro is also 6-5 and he uses his size and strength to ward off defenders.
Tight end Dustin Keller leads the Jets with 50 catches for 693 yards. He is an athletic receiver with good body control. Keller is sneaky with a delayed release in the red zone and he has the savvy to know when to break off his routes. Keller will often use a teammate's pick in the middle of the field to get free and he is elusive after catching the ball. Backup Matthew Mulligan is a better blocker, but he has good initial quickness running his routes and is adept at finding openings in the defense.
The Jets' offensive line did not allow a sack in back-to-back victories over Washington and Kansas City earlier this month. Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has started every game since he was a first-round draft choice in 2006. He is a two-time Pro Bowler with athleticism and extremely long arms, which make it difficult for defenders to get around him. Left guard Matt Slauson is a smart and alert player with good pull speed and patience. Center Nick Mangold has played in the last three Pro Bowls. He missed the first two games of his six-year career earlier this season with a high ankle sprain. Mangold is a smart player who makes all the calls at the line and he has the size, strength and athleticism to make the necessary blocks in both the run game and in pass protection. Right guard Brandon Moore has started 119 consecutive games. He is big, smart and tough, and his experience helps alert him to tricks and blitzes by the opposition. Eight-year veteran right tackle Wayne Hunter is in his first season as a fulltime starter with the Jets. He has good body range and has played well. Victor Ducasse plays in several packages as an extra tight end.
The Jets are ranked seventh in the NFL in total defense, allowing 317.9 yards a game. They are 16th against the run (112.9) and seventh vs. the pass (205.1). The Jets are third in third down defense (their opponents have converted 57 of 181 opportunities, a 31.5 percent success rate) and are first by holding the opposition to one successful fourth down conversion on 10 chances. They are 21st in scoring defense, allowing 22.5 points a game. The Jets gave up 30 or more points in five of their six losses and twice held their opponents to less than 10 points. They have allowed only 13 touchdown passes, the second-fewest in the NFL.
The defense is technically a 3-4, but the Jets often use four-man fronts and many different defenders line up at several different spots throughout a game. They run a lot of exotic blitzes and show many different looks in their blitz packages. The Jets frequently mix and match their personnel and introduce new packages each week, based on what the opposition likes to do.
Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets' first-round draft choice this year, has started every game this season at left end. He has a good initial punch and rushes with power, but also has the speed to come off the edge. Nose tackle Sione Pouha is one of the NFL's best interior run stoppers. He has the strength to shed blockers and the high motor and quickness to bring down ballcarriers. Mike DeVito is a starting end who plays tackle in some sub defenses. He is an instinctive defender who will chase the ball against both the run and pass. Ropati Pitoitua, the Jets' tallest player at 6-8, is another versatile lineman who plays about 25 snaps a game. He reads schemes quickly and moves laterally along the line of scrimmage and makes a mess of what the offense tries to do. Marcus Dixon and Martin Tevaseu could also get snaps in sub packages.
Inside linebacker David Harris is the Jets' defensive quarterback. He makes the calls in the huddle and rarely leaves the field. Harris plays at a high speed and he is an attacking-style player who pursues the ball from side to side. Calvin Pace is a versatile, tough, heavy-bodied outside linebacker who normally lines up on the right side. He locates the ball quickly against the run and pass and is a powerful tackler. Pace is a disruptive player who is always in attack mode. Weak inside backer Bart Scott is strong on his feet, will work through traffic to get to the ballcarrier and has a good closing burst. He is tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks. Jamaal Westerman stepped in at the other outside linebacker position when Bryan Thomas suffered a season-ending Achilles injury at Baltimore on Oct. 2. A college defensive end who converted to linebacker, Westerman is an ascending young player who is quick and disruptive. He is removed in the sub defenses. Aaron Maybin, a former first-round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills, was signed on Sept. 28. Despite playing in only 11 games, he leads the team with 6.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and 17 quarterback hurries while playing almost exclusively in the nickel and dime defenses. Maybin gets upfield in a hurry and has the foot quickness to jump past tackles. Josh Mauga and Garrett McIntyre also play as reserve linebackers.
Safety Eric Smith is second on the team with 102 tackles (75 solo). He frequently lines up at the linebacker level and makes most of his plays near the line of scrimmage. The other starting safety, Jim Leonhard, suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago vs. Kansas City. He has been replaced by Brodney Pool, a seven-year pro who takes good angles in run support and is best in man coverage vs. tight ends. Gerald Alexander, who has 37 career starts, was signed on Dec. 13 to give the Jets additional depth. Tracy Wilson also plays in the back of the secondary.
Darrelle Revis is a three-time Pro Bowler who usually covers the opposition's best receiver. He leads the Jets with four interceptions this season. Revis is strong in bump-and-run coverage, which forces wideouts off their routes. Unlike some corners, the 5-11 Revis is a willing tackler. Antonio Cromartie plays on the other side. At 6-2, he has size, speed, range and length. Cromartie is hard to outrun and difficult to throw over on deep passes. Kyle Wilson, the Jets' top draft choice in 2010, is an athletic and fast corner with cover skills who plays in sub packages. Donald Strickland plays most often in the dime defense and has 22 tackles. Marquice Cole and Isaiah Trufant are reserves who also get playing time.
Like so many of the Giants' 2011 opponents, the Jets have strong special teams. McKnight leads the NFL with a 32.3-yard average on 32 kickoff return, including a 107-yard touchdown at Baltimore. Cromartie has averaged 25.3 yards on 15 returns. With Leonhard sidelined, Kerley has assumed the punt return duties fulltime. He is averaging 9.4 yards on 23 runbacks. Nick Folk has made 18 of 23 field goal attempts, including eight of 14 from 40 yards and longer. Punter T.J. Conley has had only 31 percent of his punts returned, a league-low figure. Linebacker Nick Bellore leads the Jets with 26 special teams tackles (20 solo).
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