The New York Jets and Houston Texans enter tonight's Monday Night Football showdown heading in two completely different directions. Whereas Houston is being talked about as a potential Super Bowl contender, New York appears to be completely and totally spiraling out of control. With injuries taking out all their top players and a media frenzy surrounding their quarterback situation, the Jets are probably one big loss away from full-blown chaos.
This is an important game for both squads. As mentioned, New York desperately needs a big win – particularly after the 34-0 shellacking this team took from the San Francisco 49ers last week. Houston, meanwhile, has its sights set on homefield in the playoffs. With big games against the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots still on the agenda, though, picking up at least three losses after tonight is a virtual lock.
Here are three things from both squads to keep an eye on during tonight’s game:
New York Jets
1. Will Tim Tebow see significant time on the field?
Mark Sanchez has a 69.6 quarterback rating right now. He has thrown for 813 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions on 63-of-128 passing. (49.2 percent completion rate.) He has been terrible. A lot of that isn’t his fault. His only moderately solid wide receiving option in Santonio Holmes went down with an injury last week and, frankly, Holmes wasn’t all that great of an option in the first place.
Beyond that, the Jets have no running game to speak of (25th in rushing yards), and the offensive game-planning has been embarrassing from the jump. Tim Tebow, whether he ultimately succeeds or fails, at least has the physical tools necessary to sort of throw Houston’s defense off its game.
Keep an eye on how much PT Tebow gets tonight – it will probably be noticeably more than he had in all of his prior games combined.
2. Can the defense stop (or at least slow down) Arian Foster?
The once formidable Jets defense is now a shell of its former self. On the year, New York is 31st in the league in rushing yardage allowed – giving up a total of 172.8 yards per game. Arian Foster, one of the NFL’s premier backs, has rushed for 380 yards and four touchdowns on 103 attempts this season. If they can't slow Foster down and keep him in the three yards per carry-ish range, this is going to be a long night for the Jets defense.
3. Which wide receiver will step up?
With Santonio Holmes gone for the year and Stephen Hill doubtful, Mark Sanchez (or Tim Tebow) is going to need for one of the team’s lesser known options to step up. Jeremy Kerley is second to Holmes in receiving yards with 197 (on 10 receptions), and tied for first in receiving touchdowns with two. If anyone steps into the No. 1 spot tonight, it will probably be him.
1. Can Matt Schaub get into a rhythm?
The Jets’ defense overall is pretty bad this year, but they are still sixth in the league in opponent passing yardage. (197.5 yards per game.) A lot of that ranking can probably be attributed to the team’s first three games during which they a.) still had Darrelle Revis and b.) played the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. Then again, last week against Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers, this defense still only gave up 143 yards, so maybe not.
Matt Schaub is only 19th in the league in passing yards per game with 238.2 per outing. If New York’s defense can slow Houston’s aerial assault down, that would put a lot of pressure on the short-handed running game – and by extension give the Jets a much better shot at sneaking out with a win.
2. What sort of game will Andre Johnson have?
Andre Johnson has the talent to be the best wide receiver in the NFL. Unfortunately, partially due to injuries and partially due to the quarterback situation he has had to deal with over the past few years, he never really got his due. Nevertheless, this guy has the potential to have a blowout game against a Revis-less Jets defense – so long as Schaub can deliver him the ball.
So far this year Johnson has recorded 268 yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions. If he can get it going early tonight, this could turn into a rout.
3. Who will step up in place of Ben Tate?
According to ESPN, Ben Tate will be out with a toe injury tonight. Even though Arian Foster is obviously the No. 1 running back on this squad, Tate’s 117 yards (on 30 carries) and two scores have been huge for the Texans.
If he ends up not playing, Justin Forsett will be the guy who steps into his role. His stats on the year? Six carries for 35 yards. A solid 5.8 yards per carry, obviously, but a relatively meaningless figure given how little action he has seen.