The New York Jets are resilient…but is that enough to succeed in 2021?

zach wilson, jets

The New York Jets have undoubtedly grown over the past year on the football calendar. But is this type of progress acceptable?

The modern New York Jets are a team of many labels. “Boring”, however, doesn’t make the cut. Many watch the Jets for gridiron schadenfreude and meme ammunition, but even the most relentless virtual court jesters who rely upon the Jets for their material had to take a legitimate interest in what the team had cooking in 2021.

The highly-sought Robert Saleh was granted the head coaching reins while rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was surrounded by the best offensive weaponry a 2-14 team could afford. Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Keelan Cole, Tyler Kroft, and Morgan Moses weren’t forming an All-Pro team, but each had two vital traits for a metropolitan squad in transition: postseason experience and something to prove.

It was hard to label the Jets’ 2021 expectations: they upgraded from the previous year’s group if only because anything short of folding the franchise would’ve been seen as an improvement after last season, the cursed final year of Adam Gase’s doomed tenure. There were legitimate reasons for excitement, but nothing that would allow the Jets to crash the AFC’s postseason party hosted by Kansas City and Buffalo.

Saleh, a stabilizing force for a franchise in desperate need of any footing, was kind enough to stop the debate over the Jets’ expectations during the fanfare surrounding his introductory press conference in February. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator flat out promised that the road back to NFL respectability would be paved with adversity. But he was willing to embrace such hardships with open arms in the name of growth.

michael carter, jets

“I’m genuinely excited for adversity, because a lot of different things are going to pop up,” Saleh told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated shortly after his hire. “Everybody’s going to find out a little more about themselves when adversity hits. I think that’s when teams have their greatest amount of growth, it’s through adversity…that’s what I’m most excited for. I want to see how people respond.”

Having arrived at a league-mandated landmark…their Week 6 open date traditionally granted to those partaking in the NFL International Series…with a 1-4 record premature analysis of the Saleh era has gotten underway. The latest defeat came overseas, as the Jets fell by a 27-20 final to the Atlanta Falcons in London.

There’s no use in fully assessing Saleh and Wilson; barring complete and utter disaster, they’ll return for 2022. Even the most optimistic Jets supporter would’ve been foolhardy to assume playoffs and the overwhelming standings onslaught has come to pass.

The Western New York juggernaut that rules the East division has been everything advertised and then some. A desperate wild card bid is likely already thwarted by the usual expected suspects (i.e. Cleveland, LA Chargers) and surprise surges in Denver, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas.

Developmental growth is what will define the Jets’ individual seasons and efforts until a more complete team is assembled…so what can be said about 2021?

Through five games, it’s undeniably clear that this team is blessed with resiliency, perhaps the best trait you can ask for when you’re prophetically doomed to a year of rebuilding. That trait is best on display through a defense held together with the masking tape of additions obtained through Saturdays of draft weekends past and present (i.e. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols). A unit that was supposed to be headlined by the antics of Carl Lawson, Marcus Maye, and Jarrad Davis has given way to breakout campaigns from bargain bin, end-of-camp releases like Quincy Williams and John Franklin-Myers.

quincy wilson, jets

For better or worse, the Jets have kept their fans more invested in their games from a scoreboard perspective. New York has faced sizable deficits over its first five games (summiting at a 26-point shutout margin in Denver) but they’ve had the decency…or cruelty?…to keep pace with their powerful opponents until the dam of gridiron destiny finally broke.

But while the Jets have kept things close in terms of the final score, the matters and context as to how they got there have been dubious. Sunday’s latest defeat was a prime opportunity for the Jets to cash in: they were coming off an inspiring win over division leaders from Nashville while Atlanta was missing blooming top receiver Calvin Ridley. Going up against the sputtering Falcons, whose pair of victories have come against the horrifying metropolitan duology of MetLife Stadium, could’ve been almost scripted by a pro-Jets screenwriter.

Instead, the Jets allowed the Falcons’ aging franchise quarterback to look like the Matt Ryan of old (season-best 342 yards) and heralded a Kyle Pitts breakout session (9 receptions, 119 yards, and a score). Granted, perhaps a defensive regression should’ve been expected: the unit has been carrying water for the offense all year forced to start an average drive only 65 yards away from the end zone, an NFL worse. At some point, they probably had to snap, and a breaking point of sorts came on Sunday.

But, despite that, the Jets keep things decent in their final margins, especially when removing the particularly ugly Denver outlier. For as much hullabaloo the Sam Darnold reunion caused, his new employer prevailed only by a five-point margin. After four Wilson interceptions, a visit from the New England Patriots was still only a two-possession game at the half.

So the Jets have established themselves as a resilient team, a pesky group that isn’t going to back down from a challenge and could perhaps even play up to its competition. But how long can they do this? How long can beautifying the scoreboard be a sustainable, respectable goal?

Last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans personified that best-case scenario of what the 2021 season can be: it was a win over a contender, a throat-clearing gesture to the rest of the football world that better times were finally ahead for one of professional sports’ most downtrodden and lampooned franchises. Sure, the win came as the Titans were missing the services of firey receiving options A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but considering the long-term medical woes the Jets have endured over the first month of regular season play alone that’s hardly a valid excuse.

Wilson, the architect of 297 yards, two touchdown passes, and the Jets’ first comeback from two possessions down since December 2018, created a point on the team franchise timeline that couldn’t be ignored. Of note, was focused on not only the positives but on the work ahead as well.

zach wilson, jets

“I wouldn’t say we’ve fully arrived,” Wilson said, per Jack Bell of the team website. “This is just another puzzle piece of where I want to get. Now we have to stack the blocks. This was a step in the right direction.” Saleh concurred, noting that he hoped the win over the Titans would help the young team’s confidence “snowball”.

Alas, the opportunity to create a winning streak fell by the wayside on New White Hart Lane and leaves a sour taste in the Jets’ mouths. The lost chance to create a rare, guaranteed, three-week period of good vibes is likely not lost on a team that has embraced the low expectations and opinion the football-loving public has bestowed upon them.

Saleh, Wilson, and Co. can preach for hours on end about the Jets’ growth and development, how pleased they are in what they’re building. But all that means nothing if they can’t prove their progress in the most important…or at the very least most conventional…metrics: the win column and the three-hour windows on Sunday afternoon (or, in the London case, morning). Improving the former is a little too much to ask for, but the team can hardly prove that they’re moving in the right direction when they’re falling behind by two possessions in each of its games.

The Jets have been macabrely blessed with the gift of the fact that this season is an automatic improvement over last year’s disaster. But that doesn’t mean they have to be satisfied with it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss vs. Atlanta

New York Jets

The New York Jets took a few steps forward after a brutal first half, but their overseas comeback effort fell just short.

Deja vu flirted with the New York Jets, but Gang Green couldn’t seal the international deal against the Atlanta Falcons.

Matt Ryan threw for 342 yards, 119 of which went to rookie Kyle Pitts. The fourth overall pick from April’s Draft proceedings also had a touchdown alongside fellow tight end Hayden Hurst as Atlanta escaped with a 27-20 victory after the Jets nearly came back from three possessions down. Michael Carter and Ty Johnson had rushing touchdowns for the Jets (1-4) while Zach Wilson threw his ninth interception of the season as Atlanta built its early lead. The loss comes after the Jets erased a nine-point lead against the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium.

Both the Jets and Falcons (2-3) will now take the standard week off granted to teams that partake in overseas contests. New York re-opens its season on Oct. 24 as they head up to Foxboro to battle the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

ESM has three game balls to bestow as silver linings from this latest loss…

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Ty Johnson: 4 carries, 12 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 22 yards
  • WR Corey Davis: 4 receptions, 45 yards
  • WR Keelan Cole: 2 receptions, 38 yards
  • WR Denzel Mims: 2 receptions, 33 yards
  • WR Jamison Crowder: 4 receptions, 24 yards, two-point conversion
  • CB Bryce Hall: 7 tackles, 2 passes defended
  • CB Brandin Echols: 9 tackles

3rd Star: LB C.J. Mosley

8 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Mosley’s reintroduction to the NFL has been a wonder to behold. He temporarily transferred momentum to the Jets’ side by forcing a fumble from Hurst when Atlanta entered the red zone again. His cough-up was recovered by Michael Carter II and the Jets embarked on a 16-play drive that netted a Matt Ammendola field goal.

2nd Star: RB Michael Carter

10 carries, 38 yards, 3 receptions, 20 yards

Despite some solid contributions from Johnson, Carter’s takeover of the primary rushing duties took another step forward on Sunday. The Jets’ best first down yardage came from Carter touches, ones that set the Jets up handsomely on the latter strikes. With his Sunday score, Carter is one of only three rookie running backs to visit the end zone twice. He also capitalized on extended duties through the air, his three receptions sitting behind only Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder.

1st Star: LB Quincy Williams

8 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 QB hit

The Jets’ pass rush struggled to build upon the momentum established against the Tennessee Titans last week, failing to get to Ryan at any point in London. Williams did what he could to establish pressure and once again stifled a dangerous run game with some clutch takedowns. He also forced two fumbles in the second half: another forced from Hurst bounced harmlessly out of bounds but another taken away from Mike Davis and recovered by Shaq Lawson stopped an Atlanta drive in New York territory.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Sheldon Rankins sees super things on the D-line

sheldon rankins, jets

Rankins, a playoff staple in New Orleans, sees signs that the New York Jets’ pleasantly surprising defense can compete with the NFL’s finest.

Sheldon Rankins goes into the New York Jets’ London excursion as an avenger of sorts. The former New Orleans Saint could make his former comrades proud with a win on Sunday, as the Jets face the fleur de lis’ biggest rival, the Atlanta Falcons, in the NFL’s first international game since November 2019 (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network).

Tony Stark won’t be available. But Rankins is pleased to say that the Jets’ defense, namely the front seven, has enough “superpowers” to work their way through the trials of the road back to respectability.

“There’s a special thing about the group…everyone has their superpower,” Rankins said on the Inside the Jets show on the team’s official website. “We speak about (Quinnen Williams’) straight-line power to just move people out. Foley (Fatukasi) is a mountain of a man. (John Franklin-Myers) has the versatility to move as quickly as he does. Bryce (Huff) is the Tasmanian devil, that’s what we call him, and he probably got that name 30 minutes ago. Myself? I’m kind of the wily veteran in the room right now.”

The Jets’ defense has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2021 NFL season. Stitched together with additions obtained through the Saturday of draft weekend and decimated by injury, the unit has embraced the challenges inherited by a developing offense. Average defensive possessions start a mere 64 yards away from the end zone, the worst starting situation in the league.

Yet, much like Robert Saleh before them, the unit has been a showcase of adaptability and resiliency. Entering Week 5 action, the Jets have allowed 17 red zone possessions, the worst tally in the league if not for Kansas City and Washington (19 each). The sizable opportunities have been created through eight turnovers, a tally that ranks at the penultimate point of the league’s depths (only Jacksonville is worse at 9).

Fortunately for New York, only six of those possessions have ended in touchdowns, behind only a three-team group of Buffalo, Denver, and New Orleans. The resiliency was prominently on display in the Jets’ first win of the season, a 27-24 overtime triumph over the Tennessee Titans. In that win, the Jets saw the erasure of an early 9-0 lead build solely through Randy Bullock field goals.

The early stages of the 2021 season have also brought back the Jets’ pass rush abilities. Such a revival tour was masked by early losses, but Sunday’s effort was impossible to ignore. The Jets earned seven sacks, their best output in nearly four full seasons, en route to their first addition to the 2021 win column. They’ve earned 16 sacks this season, which once again ranks second, trailing only Sunday’s opponent in that category. These numbers have been posted despite the extended medical leaves of impactful newcomers Carl Lawson (out for the season) and Jarrad Davis (out for at least one contest going into the coming bye week).

In speaking with hosts Dan Graca and Bart Scott, Rankins acknowledged that the Jets’ newfound aggressiveness is a high-risk, high-reward gambit that can let up big plays. But Rankins knows the value of a disturbance in the backfield: New Orleans ranked in the top six of pressure rates in each of the last two seasons en route to 25 wins and the latter half of four consecutive NFC South titles.

Rankins, 27, has posted pedestrian numbers (four tackles and a sack) compared to his young compatriots. He believes, however, that continued collaborative pressure will help bolster everyone’s numbers. To that point, Franklin-Myers has already reached or neared his career-best tallies. His efforts have since been rewarded with a reported four-year extension with his rookie contract set to expire after this season.

Working in such a system has Rankins feeling like another superhero of both the pages and silver screen. Appropriately, this one calls Gotham City home.

“For me, it’s all about being disruptive,” Rankins said on the program. “The numbers are going to come with that. The more that you wreck shop, get off and disrupt the game and cause havoc inside, the numbers are going to come. Once I put the pads on I’m Batman. I feel like I’m going out there and causing damage. I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing.”

Even if Rankins isn’t sending in showstopping stat sheets, head coach Robert Saleh knows just how important he is to the Jets’ defensive revolution. It was Saleh who convinced general manager Joe Douglas to inquire into the former Saint’s services, even as he was coming off a knee injury that relegated him to the injured reserve. Rankins hasn’t played a full NFL season since 2018, when he tallied 15 pressures, 12 tackles for a loss, and eight sacks in his third season in The Big Easy.

Even as Rankins continues to work his way back, Saleh is pleased to see his faith rewarded.

“I have so much respect for his game,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “It was just a perfect match in terms of his style of play (and) with the way we ask him to play. It’s just a perfect match for the way his game is made, and he’s showing it.”

“You could already see, last year, that he was getting back to what he was when he was drafted and then his second year when he was so productive,” Saleh continued. “Then injuries obviously set him back, but when you talk to people around the league, especially in that building, he is an unbelievable leader, he’s got tremendous work ethic, the way he takes care of his body, he’s meticulous in everything he does, and I’m just really excited for him and the success he’s been having so far.”

Rankins is one of the rare Jets with both extensive experience against the Falcons and on the football pitch: the interior threat has earned 16 tackles, eight pressures, and seven tackles for a loss over eight games against Atlanta and was in the Saints’ starting lineup during their October 2017 tilt against Miami at Wembley Stadium.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets vs. Atlanta Falcons

zach wilson, jets

London’s calling the New York Jets. Can Gang Green start a winning streak overseas against the reeling Falcons?

  • What: New York Jets (1-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
  • Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
  • When: Sunday at 9:30 a.m ET
  • Watch: NFL Network

robert saleh, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti: Jets 23, Falcons 19

Ah, London. Fish, chips, cup o’ tea, New York Jets football…LONDON!

With apologies to the late, great Dennis Farina, the United Kingdom’s capital is a godsend to the New York Jets in the sense that it’s one of the few countries to host NFL football, that, to date, that has yet to host a Gang Green loss. The Jets won their first visit to the island nation in 2015, paced by a career day from Chris Ivory.

Six years later, the Jets are no closer to a Super Bowl but might be in the unusual position of being a one-win team faced with the closest thing it can possibly get to a trap game. The Jets are coming off an exciting victory against a recent AFC playoff staple from Tennessee (albeit one without the aerial services of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones), one that could be long remembered as the first win of the Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson era. They’re now granted a neutral site game against a Falcons that has failed to feast on a predominantly NFC East slate: they’ve already lost to Philadelphia and Washington and needed all 60 minutes to steal a win from the lowly Giants.

Armed with fresh momentum, particularly on offense, all signs point to the Jets starting a winning streak overseas. This being the Jets, of course, it’s never that easy. Atlanta has played better over the last two weeks after losing their first two contests by a combined 49 points. Cordarrelle Patterson is establishing himself as a legitimate offensive threat while the young talents of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts can’t be denied. Matt Ryan isn’t what he used to be but has remained a serviceable option under center.

The Jets’ defense has tackled (pun intended) a lot of challenges and misconceptions over the past few weeks. Confidence has grown amongst the group, so they should be ready for what Atlanta is ready to throw at it. The big factor this week is how the offense builds on what they were able to do against the Titans. A prime opportunity lingers against a Falcons defense that has allowed 11 touchdown passes and has forced only two turnovers in its first four outings.

Jets-Falcons isn’t the most attractive matchup for the British…well, they did give the world the Cats musical, which in turn led to the garish film adaptation, so consider this revenge…but it should be an interesting case of two desperate teams fighting for 2021 relevancy. For the Jets, it’s a prime opportunity to build the promises of growth and development.

There have already been so many signs of such progress…again, the defense stitched together by draft weekend Saturday pick-ups has been extraordinary…but now there’s an opportunity to post them in the most important stockpile of all: the win column. Putting together consecutive wins is vital in this stage. The sooner Saleh and Wilson get a winning streak off their respective rookie to-do lists, the better.

Dylan Price: Jets 31, Falcons 20

They did it! The Jets finally won a game and now travel overseas for their London game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta has pieced together two strong performances in a row. They won against the Giants and put up 30 points against the Washington Football Team last week. Cordarelle Patterson has looked like a superstar and the Falcons’ offense seems to be picking up momentum.

Meanwhile, the Jets have found some momentum as well. The offense looks to finally have found a rhythm, and their defense looks really good, coming off a performance where they only allowed two scores. If the Jets’ pass rush can replicate their performance from Sunday, or even half of that, they will cause disruptions for Matt Ryan.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons defense has allowed more than 32 points three times this season. This is an opportunity to continue their momentum as long as the Jets continue to open up the playbook. I’m taking the Jets to win and travel home from London happy.

Mags’ Best of the Rest

LA Rams (-1.5) @ Seattle (Thu.)

Divisional redemption awaits the Rams on Thursday night, as they should take advantage of a Seahawks defense still looking for stability.

Who Covers: Rams
Who Wins: Rams

Denver @ Pittsburgh (-1.5)

Denver’s (angry) defense, fresh off a respectable effort against Baltimore, facing off with a Ben Roethlisberger showing his age ultimately should trump the decision under center between Drew Lock and the injured Teddy Bridgewater.

Who Covers: Broncos
Who Wins: Broncos

Detroit @ Minnesota (-7.5)

Nothing’s come easy for the Vikings but they should be able to handle business against a reeling Lions squad.

Who Covers: Lions
Who Wins: Vikings

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay (-3) @ Cincinnati 

Joe Burrow and the Bengals are one of the more feel-good stories of the early stages of the season, but leave it to Aaron Rodgers to provide a healthy dose of reality.

Who Covers: Packers
Who Wins: Packers

Miami @ Tampa Bay (-10.5)

Though the spotlight is removed, Tom Brady should be able to reestablish another lost AFC East tradition: beating up on the hapless Dolphins.

Who Covers: Buccaneers
Who Wins: Buccaneers

New England (-9) @ Houston

The publicized fall to Brady’s new comrades at least proved the Patriots are trending in the right direction and the evidence should be visible on the scoreboard against the woebegone Texans.

Who Covers: Patriots
Who Wins: Patriots

New Orleans (-1.5) @ Washington

Coming off a shocking home loss to the Giants while Tampa Bay and Carolina start to inch away in the NFC South, New Orleans simply needs this game more than Washington’s division title defense does.

Who Covers: Saints
Who Wins: Saints

Philadelphia @ Carolina (-3.5)

The new-look Panthers’ first response to adversity comes against a reeling Eagles defense that let up 461 yards to Kansas City last week.

Who Covers: Panthers
Who Wins: Panthers

Tennessee (-4) @ Jacksonville 

Even if the Titans are forced to sit Brown and Jones again, they have much bigger issues if they can’t take down a Jacksonville dealing with Urban decay.

Who Covers: Titans
Who Wins: Titans

Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago @ Las Vegas (-5.5)

The promise of more Justin Fields will help the Bears in the long run, but growing pains lie on the immediate road ahead.

Who Covers: Raiders
Who Wins: Raiders

Cleveland @ LA Chargers (-1)

This battle of dowtrodden offenses on the rise should come down to the offensive faceoff, and it’s hard to deny that the Chargers have the edge there for the time being.

Who Covers: Chargers
Who Wins: Chargers

NY Giants @ Dallas (-7)

One thing’s for sure: a battle between the exhilarating Cowboys and the determined-to-prove something Giants provide fireworks that rivalry has been lacking in recent stagings, even if it’s a little much to ask New York to stop the rolling Dallas offense on the road.

Who Covers: Giants
Who Wins: Cowboys

San Francisco @ Arizona (-5.5)

The Cardinals aren’t going undefeated…no team in NFL history is ever doing that again…but their unbeaten streak should continue against a pleasantly surprising 49ers team that’s on the cusp of a quarterback controversy.

Who Covers: 49ers
Who Wins: Cardinals

Buffalo @ Kansas City (-3)

The Bills have feasted on subpar competition, but now face one of the scariest challenges in football that hasn’t been seen in years: a Kansas City Chiefs team with something prove in the regular season.

Who Covers: Chiefs
Who Wins: Chiefs

Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-7)

Fresh off a win in Miami, the Colts could sneak back into the division race with Houston, San Francisco, Tennessee, the Jets, and Jacksonville all looming ahead, but asking them to steal a primetime road tilt from Lamar Jackson and Co. is a little too much to ask for.

Who Covers: Colts
Who Wins: Ravens

Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 38-26

Dylan Price
LA Rams @ Seattle (Thu.) Rams
Denver @ Pittsburgh Broncos
Detroit @ Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay @ Cincinnati Packers
Miami @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New England @ Houston Patriots
New Orleans @ Washington Football Team
Philadelphia @ Carolina Panthers
Tennessee @ Jacksonville Titans
Chicago @ Las Vegas Raiders
Cleveland @ LA Chargers Chargers
NY Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
San Francisco @ Arizona Cardinals
Buffalo @ Kansas City Bills
Indianapolis @ Baltimore (Mon.) Ravens

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants V Atlanta Falcons Week 3 score prediction

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Looking ahead at the New York Giants 2021 regular-season schedule, their upcoming game against the Atlanta Falcons might be their best chance to secure victory and begin to shift momentum.

After two consecutive losses to the Denver Broncos and Washington Football Team to open the season, the Giants are barely treading water as they prepare to take on the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, and Carolina Panthers consecutively. That is not even to mention their matchups against the Chiefs and Buccaneers in November. They need to begin playing clean football without self-inflicted wounds, which have severely limited their success to start the year.

With head coach, Joe Judge guaranteeing a disciplined unit and a product fans would be proud of, starting the year with two losses isn’t exactly what he predicted. However, there’s plenty of time to turn the ship around, and the Falcons present a perfect opportunity to do so.

With Eli Manning having his jersey retired at halftime against Atlanta, the Giants have a few goals in mind to overcome a team that has given up an average of 40 points through two games. Last week, they gave up 48 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and with the Giants securing 29 points against Washington last week, their offense has a clear-cut advantage.

What the New York Giants will be trying to accomplish:

To start, Daniel Jones needs to piece together another consistent game throwing and running the football. He nearly had two rushing and passing touchdowns last week if not for a costly drop and holding penalty on WR, CJ Board. Establishing the running game, controlling the clock, and winning the turnover battle must be the priority.

The Falcons will be without starting corner AJ Terrell and receiver Russell Gage, presenting a few match-up advantages on both sides of the ball. Terrell has been their best boundary corner this season, not allowing a reception last week against the Buccaneers. With him missing the game, the Giants should have a field day in the passing game, but running back Saquon Barkley should also take advantage of a unit that is averaging 127.5 yards allowed on the ground per game.

Overall, the Giants need to play a disciplined and clean game in Week 3, changing the narrative after a messy start to the season. In addition, the defense, who was expected to be a top-10 unit entering the year, has disappointed massively. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions which were taken for touchdowns against Tampa, so the Giants have a tremendous opportunity to right the ship and reset the clock on their season.

Score prediction: NYG 35 – ATL 23

Giants catch big break against already awful Falcons defense

a.j. terrell, falcons, new york giants

The New York Giants have an opportunity to reset their 2021 season with a poor Atlanta Falcons team making their way to MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. With Eli Manning’s retirement ceremony commencing at halftime, the Giants will hope to have a comfortable lead in honor of one of the organization’s most valued players.

Luckily for a Big Blue, Atlanta’s defense ranks as the worst in the NFL in points allowed per game, giving up 40 on average over two games. Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they allowed 48 points, with 14 coming from pick 6’s. However, with the Giants losing to the Washington Football Team in a torturous fashion, they are in desperate need of some positive momentum and success to help spur consistency. The coaching staff has been responsible for poor in-game adjustments and decisions, but the players have failed to execute at a high level in addition.

As aforementioned, Atlanta’s defense is one of the worst in a league, and they will be without top cornerback A.J. Terrell on Sunday. Terrell has seen 112 snaps on the field as the defense’s left boundary corner, and he ranks as the team’s best with a 68.6 overall coverage grade, per PFF. He has only given up three receptions for 30 yards this year as a 2020 draft pick in the first round.

With Terrell missing this contest, the Giants will have an easy time throwing the football and targeting their more prominent receivers through the air. With that being the case, we should expect quarterback Daniel Jones to have another solid performance, but Atlanta is also susceptible on the ground.

Through two weeks, the Falcons have given up 127.5 rushing yards, providing running back Saquon Barkley with a fantastic opportunity to enjoy some success after working his way back slowly to open the year. Offensively for the Falcons, they rank toward the bottom of the pack in average points per game, scoring 15.5. Oddly, they won time of possession last week against Tampa, despite scoring just 25 points and losing by a significant margin. Atlanta has one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL, averaging just 214.5 passing yards per game. The Giants sit towards the middle of the league with 241.

One way or another, the Giants need to scheme a strong game plan that will focus on exposing coverage flaws in Atlanta secondary. With their top corner out, distributing the football should be easy, but we never want to make any assumption when it comes to an unpredictable Giants team.  Factoring in rookie Kadarius Toney should be a priority, given the matchups. This is the perfect opportunity to get Toney’s feet wet in the NFL after playing just 19 snaps through the first two games.

Giants have great opportunity to pummel league-worst Falcons defense, but how?

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants have arguably their easiest game through three weeks against the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming Sunday. While the Giants usually find ways to make more advantageous games difficult for themselves, the Falcons have the worst defense in the league after two regular-season games.

Atlanta has given up a league-high 40 points per game against the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which includes eight passing touchdowns against. Last week against Tampa, Tom Brady tossed five touchdowns, including two to tight end Rob Gronkowski and another two to Mike Evans. The Buccaneers’ defense also managed to record two interceptions taken for touchdowns, showcasing an inept Falcons unit that only had so many offensive opportunities because of how quickly the Buccaneers were scoring.

Looking over at the Giants, who manage 29 points against a solid Washington defense, managed to beat themselves in the final moments on an offsides call that would’ve resulted in a missed field goal by Dustin Hopkins. The Giants start off the season 0-2, similar to the Falcons.

However, this game offers the Giants a tremendous opportunity to get their offense in a better spot, getting the ball to big free agent signing Kenny Golladay more frequently and hopefully seeing Saquon Barkley rip off a few big runs. The biggest factor remains quarterback Daniel Jones, who had arguably the best game of his career against Washington.

In the loss, Jones finished with a 68.75% completion rate, 249 passing yards, 95 rushing yards, and two total touchdowns. If it weren’t for a bad holding call on receiver CJ Board and a drop by Darius Slayton, the Giants’ QB would’ve enjoyed his best stat-line to date, including five scores.

The expectation is that Jones will also enjoy the return of Evan Engram, opening up another element on offense with his athletic TE.

Looking over at Atlanta secondary, they have a selection of vulnerable cornerbacks. 2017 draft pick Fabian Moreau has already given up 65 yards and two scores through two weeks as the right boundary CB. The Falcons’ linebacker core is also a liability, with primary starter Deion Jones giving up 119 yards and a score through two weeks.

The Buccaneers targeted the middle of the field against the Falcons, specifically with their tight ends and slot receivers. The Giants will have plenty of opportunities running RPO‘s to give their past catchers good opportunities to pick up yards. Atlanta also ranks toward the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed with 127.5 per game, which should widen the eyes of Barkley, who is still looking for a game with over 60 rushing yards.

Ultimately, this is a must-win game for the Giants as they prepare to head into a tougher portion of the schedule with the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Rams coming up consecutively. Picking up some momentum and plastering a bad Atlanta defense would be a good way to get the gears turning.

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Atlanta Falcons

London’s calling the New York Jets, who will battle the Atlanta Falcons overseas in an interconference matchup in Week 5.

The Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
The Date: Week 5, 9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network (@ London, England)
The Series: Atlanta leads 7-5 (last meeting: 2017, 25-20 ATL)

American soil hasn’t been too kind to the New York Jets. Perhaps a semester abroad can do them some good.

The Jets play on a different continent for the first time since 2015, as they’ll battle the Atlanta Falcons in a British-based interconference matchup. New York won in their lone appearance in the NFL’s International Series, topping the Miami Dolphins at the rebooted Wembley Stadium.

Previous international business trips for the Jets include a visit up north to play the Buffalo Bills in Toronto back in 2009 and preseason contests in Montreal (1988) and Tokyo (2003). Atlanta, coming off a garish four-win campaign, hasn’t played overseas since 2014, when they dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker to Detroit, also at Wembley.

The Skinny On the Falcons

A new era has dawned in Atlanta. Matt Ryan is back for his 14th season as the Falcons’ franchise quarterback (the Jets have started 13 different throwers in that span) but franchise staple Julio Jones has moved on to Nashville. Atlanta also dismissed general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn, each of whom was only four years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

There’s a lot of things new in Atlanta (more on that in a minute). Several franchise faces that made that Super Bowl run have vanished, but Ryan has remained eternal. Having turned 36 in May, his contract dictates that he has at least two more years left as the Falcons’ man under center. Atlanta drove that point home by refusing to name an heir apparent. The role of Ryan’s understudy is down to a competition between undrafted Felipe Franks and NFL nomad Josh Rosen.

“We studied every drop-back pass, every play-action pass, everything that Matt did this past year,” new Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London said after the team passed (pun intended) on several high-profile throwers at the 2021 draft, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We thought as a staff that he was still performing at a high level. He could still do everything that was needed to do to run this offense…He’s been doing it in this league for a long time at a high level. We expect that to continue this year.”

With Jones dealt away to the Titans, Ryan has found a new favorite target in Calvin Ridley, who established himself as one of the most prominent deep-ball threats for years to come with a career-best 1,374 yards. Russell Gage quietly set new personal highs in the slot and will take on full No. 2 receiver duties in Jones’ absence.

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Atlanta?

In the apparent name of building one last Super Bowl map for Ryan, the Falcons retooled this offseason. Arthur Smith takes over as head coach after turning the Titans’ offense into a juggernaut while former New Orleans rival Terry Fontenot was named the general manager. Granted their highest first-round pick since they chose Ryan third overall in 2008, the Falcons defined the concept of taking the “best player available” through the selection of tight end Kyle Pitts. The Florida alum’s other-worldly size (i.e. a jaw-dropping 83-3/8 inch wingspan) allowed the Falcons to feel comfortable in biding their time in finding Ryan’s successor.

Atlanta also underwent extensive renovations to their run game. The team bid farewell to 1,411 yards of production in the form of the Todd Gurley/Brian Hill/Ito Smith group and signed ex-division rival Mike Davis, who rose to the occasion after the Christian McCaffrey nightmare in Charlotte. In terms of protection, cap reasons forced the Falcons to let offensive line staple Alex Mack go. Matt Hennessy (brother of Jets long snapper Thomas) appears poised to take over the role, having beat out fourth-round selection Drew Dalman.

Provided Ryan remains reliable and Pitts fulfills expectations, the Falcons’ biggest issues lie on defense (which was overseen by new Jets defensive boss Jeff Ulbrich after Quinn’s firing). Atlanta also completely overhauled their safeties room (a group that included current Jet Sharrod Neasman) with free agent newcomers Duron Harmon and Erik Harris the favorites to take over. Succeeding Ulbrich is Smith’s former Nashville comrade Dean Pees, who brings two Super Bowl rings with him.

How to Beat Them

-Deploy the Royal Air Force

The Falcons’ defensive revolution was necessitated by a garish effort in the secondary, as they surrendered an NFL-worst 293 yards through the air last season. They allowed at least 300 yards in nine games, going 2-7 in such contests…five of those losses were single possession games. Their attempts to shore things up when beyond Harmon and Harris: Atlanta used second (Richie Grant) and fourth-round (San Diego State blitzer Darren Hall) picks on secondary help and also added sizable man-to-man veteran Fabian Moreau after four seasons in Washington.

Harmon, a Rutgers alum who came over from Detroit, acknowledged that while there’s a positive outlook at the Falcons’ defensive future, it’s going to take some time to develop chemistry.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to take reps,” Harmon said in another report from Ledbetter. “Not just reps on the practice field, but reps in the film room. Reps at walk-throughs. Reps with us just getting together and talking ball. It’s going to take time.”

Zach Wilson thus has an early opportunity to air the ball out against a fledgling unit on a stage that all eyes of the football-loving nation(s) will be watching. If the Jets can take advantage of this opportunity, it can help Wilson and their own developing offense generate some early momentum in a nationally televised game.

-Melt Matty

It becomes a bit more difficult with the loss of Carl Lawson, but the Jets should oblige Ryan’s request to prove he still has enough in the tank. Despite several question marks surrounding the Dirty Birds, they’re capable of putting up big numbers of both the fantasy and physical scoreboards at a moment’s notice with the offensive firepower in tow.

With the Jets’ secondary likewise set to go through their own transitional period…especially with matchups against the weaponry of Carolina, Tennessee, and Atlanta on the docket in the early going…upping the pressure against a 36-year-old quarterback will be more important than ever. Over the past two seasons, Atlanta is 2-9 when Ryan is blitzed at least 15 times.

As anyone who attended that heartbreaker against Las Vegas can attest to, the Jets had no issues blitzing under Gregg Williams’ watch (ranking sixth in blitz rate). Even with Lawson done for the year, they have the personnel to raise the heat this time around. 2020 breakouts Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers are a year older and they’ll also have Sheldon Rankins and Shaq Lawson in tow as well.

Robert Saleh is used to making the most of a makeshift pass rush, posting respectable results when the dominant forces of the San Francisco front seven were obliterated by the injury bug. Making the aging Ryan uncomfortable will be vital if the Jets hope to bring a victorious souvenir back from London.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three reasons why the New York Jets will be fine without Julio Jones

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Some were disappointed that the New York Jets removed themselves from the Jones sweepstakes, but adding the former Falcon wasn’t their fight.

Julio Jones will sing a new tune in the Music City. The accoladed receiver has shed his Atlanta Falcon wings and has moved on to Tennessee, where he joins a Titans squad already blessed with the offensive talents of Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Thus ends a saga that ignited with a fateful phone call on live television by Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe.

In the aftermath, the eventual price for Jones has been hotly debated. Tennessee sent over two mid-round picks, one each over the next two drafts, the highest being a second-round choice in next year’s selections. It seems like a relatively low charge for one of the most accomplished receivers in recent NFL memory, one that gains some context when a hamstring injury suffered last season is taken into account.

Still, as Jones prepared to don Titans blue, fans of the 31 outliers are left with the lingering inquiry of “what if?” and “why not”?

At first glance, many New York Jets fans have every right to ask those questions. After all, if that was all it took for Jones to leave his Atlanta-based nest, the Jets could’ve spared the necessary parts to bring him in. They have an extra pick in both the first and second rounds of next year’s draft stemming from the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold departures. One could even argue that adding Jamison Crowder (and getting back over $10 million in cap space with Jones) to the mix might’ve sweetened the deal.

But the Jets are more than capable of surviving the lack of Jones in their lives, as consolation lies all around them…

The Jones Privilege

Adding Jones has given the Titans the dreaded title of “offseason champions”, as amateurs and experts alike will probably list them as their Super Bowl champions. They likely inherit the title from the Arizona Cardinals, who were burdened with expectations after acquiring DeAndre Hopkins in a one-sided trade with Houston. Arizona began the year 6-3 but dropped five of their final seven in missing out on the playoff entirely.

Time will tell exactly how Tennessee handles the pressure, but it’s hard to be too cynical about their chances, at least on paper. The Titans are, after all, only two years removed from an appearance in the AFC title game and are coming off their first division title since 2008. They’re tied for the seventh-best record in the NFL over the last two seasons. During his unscheduled on-air conversation with Sharpe, Jones insisted he wanted to be dealt to a contender, ruling out Undisputed co-host Skip Bayless’ Dallas Cowboys…and, by process of elimination, the Jets.

Acquiring Jones is a first-world problem of sorts, a privilege bestowed to those who are the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. The Jets are a few moves away from merely fighting for a wild-card berth, never mind The Big Game. Even if they undoubtedly got better this offseason…if only because there was nowhere to go but up after the Adam Gase era…emerging from a crowded AFC pool packed to the brim with established contenders seems like a tall ask. There’s thus no use in taking the uncertainties of post-injury Jones, who turned 32 in February, not to mention the financial obligations that come with it (over a $63 million cap hit over the next three seasons).

No Co-Authorship

One of the primary focuses of this New York offseason has been establishing a new identity, leaving a signature on a new exhibit. Through the hiring of new head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets have managed to do that. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator’s mantra of “all gas, no brake” has already been quoted ad nauseam by Jets fans and Saleh’s entry has been complemented by the arrival of several touted entries who are looking to take the next steps in their respective careers (i.e. Zach Wilson, Corey Davis, and Sheldon Rankins, all of who were chosen in the first round of their respective drafts).

But if one brings Jones into the conversation, suddenly a new identity emerges. Through no fault of Jones, this latest, most hopeful iteration of the Jets’ rebuild gets boiled down to the “Julio Jones Era” and would’ve rendered a great deal of offseason work meaningless.

There’s no doubt that Jones is fully capable of responding to this challenge and will seek to silence any doubters, particularly his former employers that thought he was “only” worth a second-round choice at best. But the Jets are seeking to scribe their own NFL story and identity, as well as write a comeback story that’s a decade in the making. They don’t have the time or resources to worry about ghostwriting someone else’s.

Good Reception

Obviously, in a perfect world, the Jets snag Jones, and he, at the very least, provides some entertainment during another year of rebuilding where progress won’t always show up on the scoreboard.

But if this year is truly the latest stanza of a seemingly eternal rebuild, the Jets must do what they failed to work during last year’s nightmare: take advantage of a bittersweet and gift and turn things into a year of development.

Simply put, anyone who’s watched a minute of NFL football over the last decade knows what Jones is capable of. If this hamstring issue is the first step of the twilight of his career, it’s better for that discovery to be made on a contender rather than a team in desperate need of answers. Once it became clear that the Jets weren’t going to do anything in 2020, Gase and Co. had a prime opportunity to audition a rushing triumvirate of La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. They instead decided to give Frank Gore a retirement tour, creating questions about the run game that lingered into the offseason.

The Jets have a group of receivers that, while talented, have yet to show they can handle the duties and burdens that comes with the status of a top target. Corey Davis worked behind Brown in Tennessee. Crowder has been a reliable slot option. There are high hopes for second-round brothers Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims. The receiving depth chart is packed to the brim with potential, but the Jets need more proven certainty to truly contend in the modern league. Rather than going with an option like Jones, who isn’t going to immediately shift the team’s fortunes in a lucrative direction, the Jets should instead focus on developing the attractive alternatives that are already in tow.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: The case for (and against) Julio Jones

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Accoladed receiver Julio Jones wants out of Atlanta; should the New York Jets inquire for his services? ESM investigates…

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones is ready to recolor his wings. A shade of green could well be in the cards.

Jones declared he was “out of” Atlanta during a candid, impromptu phone call shared by Fox Sports host Shannon Sharpe during Monday’s edition of Undisputed on FS1. There’s been no confirmation over whether Jones knew he was on air but, in perhaps an attempt to interrupt the rare lull on the NFL calendar, hypothetical trades involving the fantasy football godsend have resurfaced. Jones

The accoladed receiver’s de facto trade request serves to end his decade-long tenure in Atlanta. Several teams will undoubtedly embark on a full assault for his services and the crowded resume that comes with it.

Should the New York Jets be among them? ESM investigates…

For: Fantasy Football

Jones has been a staple of the early portions of fantasy football drafts for years. When’s the last time Jets fans were able to choose their favorite players with legitimate dreams of a fantasy title in mind. The last realistic options were probably Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker prior to the star-crossed 2015 campaign.

Now, the Jets shouldn’t base their entire lineup around who wins fantasy football championships; if that were the case, they might as well made a move for Derek Carr. But the fact they haven’t had any fantasy stars in recent years is rather telling about where they are as a franchise. Where are the reliable big play targets? Who does the rookie quarterback turn to in the clutch? Who will teams double cover on the last drive of the game?

This offseason, the Jets used the free agency process to stock up on weaponry for the new franchise quarterback, who turned out to be Zach Wilson. The current depth chart-toppers (Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, and rookie Elijah Moore) are undoubtedly upgrades from last season, but they have yet to prove themselves as consistent, reliable top options. Bringing in Jones would make him one of the Jets’ top playmakers of the past decade, and he might not even have to play a single down to prove that. Plus, the confidence Wilson would have with Jones there to greet him could prove invaluable not only in 2021 but for years to come.

Against: Julio’s Woes

The sophomoric nature of the internet and social media have perhaps made the Jets unwilling to take risks or make high-profile moves. Any move they make is going to be accompanied by satirical scrutiny that’s threatens everything they’re trying to work with in the latest stage of their perpetual rebuild.

Jones, through almost entirely no fault of his own, is going to bring some baggage with him. He’s no doubt keen to stick it to a Falcons that has apparently given up on him, and the Jets do have a high-profile matchup with the Dirty Birds that apparently did him dirty (Atlanta will “host” the Jets in London in October). Jones is also trying to emerge from one of the NFL’s most unfair stigmas: returning from an injury. Hamstring issues limited him to nine games in 2020, but he still managed to tally a respectable 771 yards.

These factors make Jones a perfect candidate, perhaps even the favorite, for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. Alas, that’s a quest the Jets truly can’t concern themselves with at this point. They have their own comeback/redemption story to write. It’s part of the reason Sam Darnold was let go. Sure, it was entirely possible that a green-clad Darnold could’ve benefitted from the coaching staff shake-up, but the Jets were at a point where they couldn’t base their immediate future on that “if”. The same could apply to Jones and his current endeavors.

For: They Can Help

Coming off three straight losing seasons (including a brutal 4-12 campaign that cost long-tenured Dan Quinn his job), the Falcons need a de facto bailout. As it stands, they’re currently of three teams with under $1 million in cap space (joining Chicago and New Orleans). Even so, they’re obviously going to want a decent return if they’re sending away one of the most prolific names in team history. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports projects that any potential suitor would have to send at least a second-round pick.

The Jets have expendable assets to help the Falcons out. They own five picks in the first three rounds of next spring’s draft and could even include someone like Crowder (who becomes over $10 million in cap savings upon his departure). If the Falcons are going to trade Jones, something has to capture their fancy, make the deal truly worth their while. The Jets are one of the rare teams with both present and future assets Atlanta potentially covets.

Against: Anything But One Move Away

The Jets have improved by leaps and bounds this offseason, if only because there was little room to plummet further after 2020. Even so, making the playoffs is still going to be a tough ask. They’re trapped in a division with the defending AFC finalists and the other sections are packed with established contenders.

There’s no doubt that Jones can carry the load of a top receiver on a contender. He’s been part of a fairly consistent Atlanta team, but his prescience alone isn’t enough to secure a playoff berth. If he’s serious about moving, he’s likely going to choose a more established destination, not one where a majority of the starting lineup is undergoing a makeover.

Additionally, whoever trades for Jones is going to literally pay a hefty price. His 2021 cap hit exceeds $23 million, with $15 million guaranteed (per Over The Cap). The Jets are one of 11 teams that can handle Jones’ guaranteed salary with their current cap space, but there are other needs that need to be fulfilled before Week 1 kicks off. They’re in desperate need of a backup quarterback (preferably one that can double as a mentor for Wilson) and could certainly use another upgrade in their blocking and secondary areas. Jones, a 32-year-old due over $37 million over the next three seasons, is a luxurious acquisition that doesn’t fit the Jets’ current landscape.

The Verdict: Stay the Course 

If this was a year or two into the Robert Saleh era, adding Jones would be a lot more feasible. There would be time to showcase what Saleh and his staff are building, a few contests to develop momentum in what the Jets hope is their last extensive renovation for a long time.

Recent history suggests that maybe the Jets would be a bit better off in bypassing redemption-seeking superstars, at least for the time being. New York is still picking at the wounds left behind in the wake of the Le’Veon Bell era. The ghost of Bell shouldn’t haunt the Jets forever, but things are still a bit too fresh to justify and work through the growing pains of a superstar seeking to prove to himself and the football world that he’s still capable of an NFL workload.

If the Jets were on the cusp of the contention red zone, they would be right to go all out. But, right now, they’ve picked up a few first downs, but probably haven’t even reached midfield in the stadium of NFL fortune. If they were closer to the Super Bowl, investing a substantial sum into a 32-year-old receiver…one who has taken quite the pen to the NFL record books…would be a relative risk worth taking. But when progress would be possibly defined as an appearance in the “In the Hunt” column seen on the networks’ playoff charts come the holidays, adding Jones is not something you can do and would be an endeavor that would merely leave everyone bitter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags