(As a heads up, negative percentages are good on defense, but bad on offense & specials)
Rush Offense: 7.8% (7th)
O-Line Ranking: Run 14th / Pass 25th
Analysis: This group is dynamic and driven by their skill players. With players like Cam Newton, Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams and Greg Olsen what their line play lacks is more than made up in talent at the skill spots. This for the Jets is going to be a blessing and a curse.
With RB Jonathan Stewart likely out of the game and Williams and Tolbert likely to run the ball, the Jets should be able to corral that aspect by the Jets talent on the defensive line. Though with a quarterback who is working within a system that seems to spread the ball well between Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Greg Olsen, the Jets are going to be forced to play "pick your poison" on the back end.
The Jets are going to need to have faith that maybe six (or maybe even five at times) will be enough up front and in order to supplement their secondary in an attempt to flood their coverages downfield to help slow down Cam Newton's passing attack. Assuming Cromartie can't go? Look for Ryan to find his most physical players left to double down on a numbers game in the secondary.
Pass Defense: -10.2% (6th)
Rush Defense: -23.4% (2nd)
D-Line Ranking: Run 7th / Pass 6th
Analysis: If I've learned one things in years I've been doing these Outsider's View posts it is that good balanced offensive or defensive units are the most dangerous units. For instance, back in the mid-2000s the Vikings defensive line was one of the most dominant units the league had ever or might ever see at stopping the run. The problem of course was that their secondary was so bad the defensive line's strength was rendered useless. As U.S. General George S. Patton once reportedly said "fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man."
So too it is with offenses or defenses. Without balance, overwhelming strength paired with weakness in either the run or pass will lead to the downfall of the whole. Over the years, former GM Marty Hurney was acquiring pieces like Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson and Captain Munnerlyn . One of the big reasons that many attribute the Panthers recent success is due to the play of the defense and specically the drafting of LB Luke Kuechly. What Kuechly has turned out to be was the centerpiece of the defense in the now-fired Marty Hurney's 2012 draft class. Since then the team's new GM has hit with Star Loutoulelei and safety free agents Quintin Mikell and Mike Mitchell, but on the whole all the pieces were finally coming into place when Hurney was shown the door after the Panthers 1-5 start in 2012.
Regardless, the Panthers defense has come together and will be a serious challenge for the Jets. There won't be much chance for the Jets to run the ball against such a stout unit, which will likely put the onus on Geno Smith. While the Panthers defense has played well, there are pockets that can be exploited in the passing game. While staying away from Luke Kuechly is just smart business, the Jets will have to get more production in the passing game from their running backs. The Panthers are able to be beaten in the screen and short dump-off passing game to running backs -- provided those throws go to the flat.
Also for Geno to be successful he will need to be able to trust his receivers to get open and throw on time in matchups against Captain Munnerlyn. While Munnerlyn excels at tackling and stopping the run, he tends to have more trouble in coverage than Florence. In the end, this is going to be a tall order for a quarterback who was successful against a much worse Raiders secondary just last week. Even so, look to see if Smith can stay competitve in the face of coming adversity and a lot of reliance on his abilities.
Special Teams: 1.1% (12th)
Analysis: Graham Gano has had a solid season for the Panthers and won't likely be an issue for the Panthers. Where the Jets might be able to get the upper hand will be on returns, the Panthers have been average at best in the return game.