THE GAME: The Carolina Panthers (7-3) at the Jets (4-6) at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. ET.
THE WEATHER: Not a terrible day, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 40s, but the wind could potentially be around 20 m.p.h. That could impact the passing games of both teams. Normally that would be an advantage for the Jets, but not necessarily here.
Coverage on SNY:
- Jets Pre-Game Live at 12 p.m.
- Jets Halftime Live on Facebook.com/SNY
- Jets Post-Game Live on SNY immediately following the game
- Jets Post-Game overtime on SNY.tv and Facebook.com/SNY immediately following Post-Game Live
WHAT IT MEANS: It's kind of remarkable that after losing four of five in agonizing fashion the Jets are right in the thick of the playoff race. Thanks to a top-heavy AFC, and a group of very flawed teams in the middle, they are just one game back of the final wild-card spot. There are a lot of teams in the flawed-but-in-the-race group, so one more bad loss by the Jets and they can kiss their playoff hopes good bye. Chances are, they need to go 5-1 over the final six games and hope they get some tie-breaker help. In other words, this is kind of a must-win.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Panthers QB Cam Newton. The big guy threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns in the Panthers last game and ran five times for 95 yards (including a 69-yarder). He's always been dangerous, but word out of Carolina is that coach Ron Rivera has loosened the reins on when and where Newton can call his own number and run. That makes their rushing attach even more dangerous. They've got a pounder in Jonathan Stewart, a two-way threat in Christian McCaffrey and then Newton on the option? It's hard for defenses to know whom to focus on, which might be why the Dolphins gave up nearly 300 rushing yards to the Panthers two weeks ago. Newton is the key, though. His ability on the option and play-action makes the running game dangerously deceptive. If he gets on a roll, the Jets might not have much of a shot.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jets S Jamal Adams vs. Bucs TE Greg Olsen. The Panthers passing attack is much more dangerous when Olsen is in the game-- and he is expected to be back on Sunday against the Jets. He's been on injured reserve since Week 2 with a broken right foot, but he's healed up and says he's feeling much better. Adams has had mixed success against tight ends this season. He struggled early in the season against Rob Gronkowski - as so many defenders do - but Bucs tight end Cameron Brate did almost nothing last Sunday (1 catch, 12 yards). Yes, Adams won't be alone on Olsen. The linebackers will help out too. And there's no way to be sure how healthy Olsen will be and how quickly he'll be worked back into the offense. But he's the wild-card here because there's not a more dangerous player in the Panthers' passing attack. If he gets going it'll turn the Panthers from a mostly run team into a dangerous dual threat.
THE PICK: I have to admit, my feelings about this Jets team were completely reset and incredibly challenged after their disastrous showing against the Bucs last Sunday. Until then, even though they had lost three of four games, I felt they were playing well, able to compete with much more talented teams. And their big win over the Bills showed they were ready to take the next step. But the stinker against the Bucs made it look like they're absolutely not ready for what could be a difficult stretch run in their unexpected playoff race. That's a problem, even at home, against a Panthers team that is a definite step up in class. Containing Newton alone will be a challenge for the Jets. They haven't been able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, and if they do on Newton it won't be easy to contain him. Chances are he will find ways to move the ball on the Jets' defense, especially on the ground. And as much as the Jets' offense has exceeded expectations, they really need to be in low-scoring games to win because their passing game is very low-powered. The Jets can run the ball, but that won't be easy this week either. The Panthers' run defense ranks third in the NFL.. … Panthers 24, Jets 10.
MY RECORD: 5-5
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING JETS TO WIN: 2-3
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING JETS TO LOSE: 3-2