The New York Jets kick off 2011 this Sunday hosting the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
The first game of the regular season will be filled with excitement as football returns but it will also be a poignant and emotional evening as all of America honors the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.
And, of course, there is the added Ryan vs. Ryan factor. Which Ryan will outsmart the other?
Despite all the sparkle that is surrounding the Cowboys heading into the season, I think this is an excellent match-up for the Jets. The Cowboys are coming into this game with a “new” head coach, a banged up secondary, a new defensive coordinator and a quarterback that missed the majority of the 2010 season.
Time for the Jets to capitalize on a golden opportunity and start the season with a bang.
The Jets are the 4 points favorites to win the “Ryan Bowl.”
Here is more on the first game of the regular season (!):
- The fate of the New York Jets rests largely on the shoulders of Mark Sanchez, who must show improvement in his third season if the Jets are to make good on their Super Bowl promise. With the injuries to the Dallas secondary, Sanchez should be able to shine in this game and show what he can bring to the table in 2011.
- We have to expect some “growing pains” (as negative nancy Rich Cimini so often refers to it) from the Jets in the passing game as Sanchez has been given new weapons to play with. He will rely heavily on Holmes and Keller early in the season and I expect that to happen in this game. However, due to the Cowboys injured secondary, it will be a great opportunity for Sanchez to look outside of his security blankets and really start to integrate Burress into the offense. Mason will be there to help move the chains but he too has not had a great deal of play on the field with the QB. Overall, the biggest issue for this part of the offense is that they have not had time together.
- As has been discussed all preseason, Shonn Greene is poised for a great year. We havent seen much of the “ground and pound” running game in the preseason, but the Jets should be able to run against this defense and hopefully offer a preview of what is to come from these backs.
- Concerns over the offensive line have been in the forefront this entire preseason, but the fact remains that the majority of the players that make up this line are superior. If they can stay healthy, protect Sanchez and create holes for the backs, the Jets will be sitting pretty. I simply can’t sit through another game where the QB is sacked time and time again.
- Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to change up the play calling. The Jets were having difficulting converting on 3rd down throughout the preseason and that has to change. More than that, this offense HAS to improve in the Red Zone. This is why they brought in Plax (I hope). Now use him.
- Rob Ryan is the new defensive coordinator for the Cowboys and he will need to make changes to a defense that ranked 31st in the league in points allowed last year.
- The Cowboys defensive backfield is not one of the strongest in the league. Sadly, this game will not be an opportunity to show improvement. CB Terence Newman, RT Tyron Smith (knee) and CB Mike Jenkins’ (knee) are all out for this game. Smith and Jenkins are both expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Long story short, we are talking about a bruised secondary that might be playing without a starting cornerback.
- Sanchez and D’Brickashaw Ferguson will need to be on the lookout for DeMarcus Ware, who will put some pressure on the pass.
- One of the focal points of Rex Ryan’s defense last year was the blitz and you can expect it to continue in 2011. (Look for Tony Romo to be blitzed like crazy).
- Muhammed Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis along with Ropati Pitoitua add some youth to the defensive line. These young guys have a ton of potential, just a lack of experience. The veteran lineman will help them come along.
- The linebackers are all returning and Calvin Pace will (hopefully) be a big factor now that he is healthy. He could have a big year rushing the passer. Jamaal Westerman will also need to show up big this year, as he has yet to really be a factor. The time is now as Tony Romo is known for being easy to read and making some questionable decisions. One more note: Get excited about the addition of Nick Bellore and Josh Mauga, who both played well in the preseason.
- Then, of course, there is the Jets cornerback tandem, which is one of, if not the best in the NFL. Miles Austin will likely be visiting Revis Island while Cromartie will face off against Dez Bryant (who is a speedy little bugger).
- The nickel and dime packages were a bit of a weakness last year, so look for them to improve. Also, Jim Leonard is back and will be a tremendous help to the safeties. Both of these components of the secondary will need to be on their game covering Jason Witten, who poses match-up problems for opposing defenses.
- This is also a team that was missing their starting quarterback for the majority of 2011 and are likely still putting together the pieces. Romo likes to throw and has some very talented receivers but he will be facing some tough competition. He is a talented QB who makes big plays but as I mentioned earlier, he has a few weaknesses and Rex Ryan will expose them. He is also going to be behind a very young offensive line that will need to keep him upright.
- Biggest match-up problems for the Jets defense are Jason Witten and Felix Jones, as both will attack the middle of the field. Witten defines the “hybrid” prototype for the tight end position. He is so difficult to match-up against and I see Romo going to him a lot on Sunday, especially because this is one area where the Jets still need to slightly improve.
- The Cowboys are loaded at receiver and the Jets will need to stack their elite CBs against Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Austin is returning from an injury that he recently re-aggravated. No telling how he will look on Sunday.
- The Jets hope to continue to use special teams to give themselves an advantageous field position as they did in the preseason to much success (despite the new kickoff rules). Rookie Jeremy Kerley will likely be a huge factor all year.
- Dallas signed five kickers to their roster throughout the off-season and last I checked they are going with two kickers. Cowboys coach Jason Garret has stated that they would like to use Kicker David Buehler in other capacities on special teams because of his athleticism.
- FB John Connor (ankle), QB Mark Brunell (calf) and DT Sione Pouha (knee) all practiced today.
- The Jets expect to have all of their starters ready for this game. I will update you if anything changes on the injury front.
Kristine Reese covers the Jets for Aerys Sports. You can follow her on Twitter @kristinereese.