THE GAME: The Seattle Seahawks (2-1) at the Jets (1-2) at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m.
THE WEATHER: The weekend rain and wind should have moved through in time for kickoff, so the current forecast calls for a gray fall day with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 60s. There is at least some chance of a sprinkle or two, though, so it may not be completely dry.
WHAT IT MEANS: A lot. Really. If the Jets lose and fall to 1-3 who will still consider them a real contender as they head to Pittsburgh and Arizona the next two weeks? They'll have essentially surrendered any hope of competing with the Patriots in the division race (especially with Tom Brady due back next week) and they'll be looking at a scenario where they'll need to go 9-3 the rest of the way to get to the likely 10 wins they'll need to make the playoffs. It will look like an impossible task. So they need this win to stay afloat and keep their dream alive of surviving their first, ugly, six-game stretch of the season at 3-3.
PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Brandon Marshall. With Eric Decker out because of a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Jets' passing offense will have to run through Marshall, who has been oddly underused in two of the Jets' three games this season (6-101 vs. Buffalo, 6-59 in the other two games). He also hasn't caught a touchdown pass this season, which seems really odd since he had 14 last season, and at 6-foot-4 he's a tremendous red-zone threat. His assignment this week will be tough.
The Seahawks have one of the best secondaries in football. And while they don't usually assign CB Richard Sherman to stick with one receiver throughout the game, it's likely they'll find plenty of ways to get him on Marshall. Marshall needs to find a way to break out or the Jets' passing offense could be in trouble.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Jets defensive line. Russell Wilson was working his way back from a high right ankle sprain and then he sprained the MCL in his left knee last Sunday, which basically means he's operating on two bad legs. For a quarterback who thrives on mobility - both running himself, and throwing on the run from outside of the pocket - that's not good news. In theory, it's even worse news against a tough, fast, dangerous defensive line and pass rush like the Jets have.
But what do the Jets have, really? They were beasts against the Bengals in the opener, sacking Andy Dalton seven times. But in the last two weeks, at Buffalo and Kansas City, they've only added two more sacks to their total. Of course, they are still capable of pressuring the quarterback and can really cause trouble for Wilson if they force him to move. He has plenty of options in the passing game, though, if he needs to bail out of a play quickly - tight end Jimmy Graham and newly signed running back C.J. Spiller can be particularly dangerous hot-read options - so if the Jets are going to get to Wilson, they better do it fast, even if he doesn't have a good leg to run on.
INJURY REPORT: The injury to Decker is the big one for the Jets, especially since WR/KR Jalin Marshall (torn labrum) is out for another couple of weeks. Quincy Enunwa, who has emerged as a solid option as the Jets' third receiver, will now become the No. 2, and it looks like undrafted rookie Robby Anderson will step in as the No. 3. LT Ryan Clady (shoulder) is also questionable for the Jets, but he is expected to play. … For the Seahawks, QB Russell Wilson seems a lock to start despite ankle and knee injuries that will surely limit his mobility. RB Thomas Rawls (broken fibula) is out, so Christine Michael will continue to carry the workload. And TE Jimmy Graham (knee/back) is banged up but expected to play.
THE PICK: First of all, in general West Coast teams don't often fare well when travelling all the way across country to the East. But the Seahawks are actually 10-5 against Eastern teams since 2011. Granted, that stat is all about how you define "Eastern," but the point stands regardless: They travel well. And it certainly helps that they have the NFL's No. 1 defense and as good a secondary as there is in the NFL.
The issue with the Seahawks is their offense, which no longer has the power running game with Marshawn Lynch gone, and that has made them very pedestrian. They certainly have weapons (Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham) and Christine Michael has been decent at running back, but until their 37-point explosion against the 49ers at home last week they had really been struggling to score (just 15 points in their first two games vs. Miami and Los Angeles). With Wilson dealing with injuries to both his legs, I think they'll have trouble scoring again. I also think it's only a matter of time before the Jets' defense starts playing like the Jets' defense we've all been expecting.
This will be the week they get their pass rush going again and I don't think their secondary will be as stretched as it was in the first two games. Sure, the Jets' offense will have its problems against the No. 1 defense in the NFL, especially without Decker. So expect an ugly, defensive slugfest of a game, and give a slight edge to the very desperate Jets. … Jets 13, Seahawks 10.
MY RECORD: 2-1.