The New York Jets open the 2011 NFL Season against the Dallas Cowboys at home on Sunday night.
The game features two of the better teams in the league as both have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. This game also features a battle between the two Ryan brothers, Rex and Rob.
With two evenly matched teams, this is shaping up to be one of the best games of the week. It should be highly contested throughout with the game coming to down to the fourth quarter.
The Jets lost their season opener last season and want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Here are 10 keys to success for the New York Jets to come out victorious on Sunday night.
1. Attack Their Secondary
The New York Jets need to come out from the beginning of the game and attack the secondary of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys will be be without starting cornerback Terrance Newman and other starter Mike Jenkins has been banged up during the preseason. Their safeties are nothing to write home about either.
Mark Sanchez needs to locate the one-on-one matchups and take advantage of them.
2. Establish the Run
While the Dallas Cowboys appear to be beatable through the air, the New York Jets can’t forget about running the football.
The Jets are built to run the football and have one of the best offensive lines in the game. If they can run the ball effectively early on, it will force the Cowboys to put another defender in the box and then Mark Sanchez can feast on their vulnerable secondary.
3. Play Turnover Free Football
Mark Sanchez has gone through phases where he turns the ball at will and others where he holds on to it with a kung fu grip.
If the New York Jets want to come out of Sunday’s game with record of 1-0, Sanchez needs to do a good job at protecting the football. If he turns it over more than once, the Jets will be in trouble.
4. Protect Mark Sanchez
If the New York Jets want Mark Sanchez to pick apart the Dallas Cowboys’ secondary, they need to give him enough time in the pocket to do so.
The Cowboys have a fearsome pass rushing duo in DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer that the Jets can’t ignore.
Also, the stats show Sanchez struggled mightily when he was pressured. He had a 35.46% completion percentage last year when pressured, the lowest in the league.
5. Slow Down DeMarcus Ware
As I mentioned in the last point, the New York Jets have to account for DeMarcus Ware.
Ware is one of, if not, the best pass rushers in the game. He will be battling the inexperienced Wayne Hunter on Sunday night. Hunter will have his hands full with Ware and the Jets are a team that often leaves their tackles on an island.
The Jets need to be able to contain Ware on the outside. If Ware is constantly beating Hunter around the edge and in Mark Sanchez’s grill, it could be a long game for the Jets.
6. Pressure the QB
The foundation of any Rex Ryan defense is to put pressure on the quarterback. Without an elite pass rusher, Ryan had had to devise complex blitz schemes to confuse opposing quarterbacks. However, as teams watched more film, they started to pick up the blitzes better.
The Jets hope this is the season Calvin Pace emerges as their ace pass rusher. Pace and the rest of the defensive will certainly have their chances come Sunday night. The Cowboys are starting three players with only one combined start on the offensive line.
Ryan has to be licking his chops thinking about that.
7. Revis Island
Darrelle Revis got off to a slow start last season mainly due to the fact he didn’t participate in training camp.
Revis was in camp from day one this season and good thing because the New York Jets will need him to return to his way of engulfing receivers on Sunday as Revis will be matched up against Miles Austin.
If Revis can shut down Austin, it will allow the rest of the secondary to focus on and double team the Dallas Cowboys’ other offensive weapons, mainly Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Which brings me to my next point.
8. Contain Jason Witten
Over the last few seasons, there hasn’t been a more consistent tight end than Jason Witten. Witten has caught at least 80 passes in each of the past four seasons.
The New York Jets were dreadful last season covering tight ends and they will have their hands full with Witten. Witten poses a significant height advantage over both of the Jets starting safeties and could do serious damage in single coverage.
The Jets need to double Witten at times and possibly even put Darrelle Revis on him if their safeties are getting burned.
9. Win the Kicking Game
Nick Folk is as streaky as they come when talking about place kickers. He could nail a 55 yard field goal and then on his next kick shank an easy 27 yard attempt. You never know what your going to get with Folk.
Folk has been his usual shaky self in the preseason (4-6) and in a game that should be close, the New York Jets can’t afford to come up empty handed on any scoring chances.
The fact that the Jets are playing the Dallas Cowboys, the team that cut Folk, could give him some extra motivation.
10. Slow Down Dez Bryant on Punt Returns
his is a small factor in the grand scheme of things, but as we saw in the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers game, returns can swing the momentum of a game in a flash.
Dez Braynt saw limited action returning punts last season, but made those opportunities count. In his 15 returns, he scored two touchdowns including a 93 yarder and averaged 14.3 yards per return.
The New York Jets have lost some core special teams players in the offseason like Brad Smith and James Ihedigbo and could be vulnerable to a big return.
Jets 23, Cowboys 20
The Jets sweat out a close game with the Cowboys and ultimately come away with the victory.