09/24/2009 11:35 AM ET
Can Jets take down Johnson, Titans?
Tennesee has big-play back, but New York has the D
By Michael Salfino / SNY.tv
Darrelle Revis won't be able to shut down a big-play wideout this week only because he isn't facing one. (AP)

The unrecognizable Jets will be even more so on a throwback Sunday at the Meadowlands this week. New York will sport the uniforms of the 1961 Titans against the current Titans of Tennessee, who will don the uniforms of the 1960 Oilers.

There was a good chance that a 2-0 team would be up against an 0-2 team but few forecast the game would match the undefeated Jets against the winless Titans.

I do put a lot of stock in desperation in the NFL. But this is a carrot vs. stick game. If you go 0-3, you have about a 1 in 33 chance of making the playoffs, historically. If you go 3-0, you get into the playoffs about 76 percent of the time.

How big was that Week 2 win against the Patriots for New York? Oddsmakers now give the Jets a 61-percent chance to make the playoffs and a 40 percent chance to win the AFC East. Those are the best odds of any team in the division. That calculation doe not merely look at record but also on quality of wins.

Let's first examine the matchup between the Titans' offense against the Jets' defense that is now the top story in this early part of the NFL season.

Tennessee has Kerry Collins a quarterback who rarely gets sacked but who needs a stable pocket in which to operate, much like Tom Brady. Collins has cement feet and can't throw accurately on the move. The Jets may not sack him, but they will force him to move, throw away balls to avoid sacks and not allow him to throw with solid mechanics as they bump him around and send men flying into his face.

The Titans have one great offensive weapon and, unlike the prior two opponents, it's not a wideout. So Darrelle Revis isn't going to be able to shut him down.

Last week, running back Chris Johnson had 284 yards from scrimmage and three long touchdowns. The numbers are more impressive than the actual performance. Johnson's first score was on a 3rd-and-19 draw on which Texans safety Dominque Barber took an angle right into the Titans tackle, whom he tried to submarine. Later Barber failed to line up on Johnson who was flanked out wide and gave up the easiest outside you'll see outside a Pee Wee League game. Johnson's third-quarter 91-yard TD run came on 3rd-and-11, and he was also untouched. This was more rotten defense than great offense. The Jets will not play rotten defense, I guarantee it.

But there's no denying Johnson's elite home run ability both as a runner and a receiver. Expect the Jets to handle him out of the backfield. Linebackers lock down on running backs in the Ryan defense; Brian Billick, whom Ryan coached under in Baltimore, said last week that New England wouldn't be able to screen against them for that reason.

In addition, the Jets will do what Buddy Ryan used to do to the Giants' Dave Meggett when he was so feared as receiver out of the backfield: blitz right at Johnson and make him block or just kill the QB with untouched rushers.

The Titans don't have a receiver worth locking down. But Revis' lockdown ability will free up extra blitzers from his side.

Trust that Ryan will figure something out. The Jets have the No. 1-ranked pass defense (yards per attempt adjusting for sacks) facing two teams that have torched their other opponents.

But the key matchup is the's Jets sixth-ranked pass offense vs. the Titans 29th-ranked pass defense.

The Titans give up nothing on the ground (second best defense in yards per rush), but the team with the better sack-adjusted YPA in the game wins 75-to-80 percent of the time going back at least 50 years.

I like Mark Sanchez over the venerable Kerry Collins after seeing the tape again of the Titans' disgraceful pass defense last week against Houston, whom the Jets so easily vanquished.

All five teams (including the Jets) in net YPA are 2-0. The bottom six teams are all 0-2.

Sanchez note of the week: On Showtime's "Inside the NFL" yesterday, Ryan said he was sold on Sanchez's intangibles when he went to his pro day and saw 24 receivers show up for him to throw to in front of the NFL scouts. Ryan said the other top quarterback they scouted, presumably Matt Stafford, had two guys show up. Ryan said Sanchez has such great charisma and leadership ability than when he asks for volunteers, everyone steps up. Most astute NFL people will tell you that you can only be a great team if the quarterback is your leader.

Prediction time: Sanchez outplays Collins. Johnson is contained in the running game and is a non-factor in the passing game as the Jets force the Titans to keep in the extra blocker. Jerricho Cotchery breaks out with 100-plus yards receiving and a touchdown. Leon Washington continues to be the main weapon in the backfield and has an impact as a receiver. Dustin Keller also has a big game. The Jets' defense finally gives up an offensive touchdown, but only one. Jets 24, Titans 13.

Michael Salfino is a nationally syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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