What: Hawks final game versus the AFC East
When: December 19th, 10 am (PST)
Where: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Jets Key Players:
QB Chad Pennington: When he went down with a rotator-cuff injury in week nine, the Jets offense went in the tank. Pennington has had trouble staying healthy, but when he is, he is deadly accurate. His arm is only average, but he makes quick decisions and his placement of the ball to his receivers is second to none. Even after missing three games and most of fourth, he has still completed 66.1% of his passes for 1,987 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The big-plays that were expected of wideouts Justin McCareins and Santana Moss have not come to fruition and thus he has had to work the short and intermediate routes more. Last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pennington had one of his worst days as a pro, passing for only 189 yards and three interceptions. Look for a rebound game from Pennington as the Jets do their best to keep pace with the other playoff contenders in the AFC.
RB Curtis Martin: Entering his 10th season in the league, most “experts” expected the durable Martin to slow down some. He has done anything but. His 1,377 yards with three games left puts him on pace to have the best season of his outstanding career and his 10 touchdowns put him on pace for the second most in his career. He runs hard between the tackles and gets the tough yards when the team needs them. He is also a solid receiver out of the backfield, catching 34 passes for two more scores. He is also very durable, missing only six games in nine-plus seasons. He is the cog to the entire Jet offense.
DE Shaun Ellis: Ellis, along with DE John Abraham, forms one of the best young defensive end tandems in the league. Ellis ranks second on the team with six sacks and while he isn’t the athlete that Abraham is, he is solid in all aspects of the game. Ellis holds up well against the run and is relentless when rushing the passer. He may move to Abraham’s RDE spot while Abraham nurses a sprained right knee for the second straight week.
MLB Jonathan Vilma: Vilma has had an excellent rookie season. He makes all of the defensive calls and he has caught on to defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson’s scheme better than expected. He plays with abandon, is a sure tackler (he leads the team with 84) and has been a pleasant surprise in coverage (two interceptions). He makes plays sideline to sideline and his recognition skills, while still improving, are better than most rookies posses.
FS Erik Coleman: Coleman was not expected to come in and play right away, but his play in training camp made coaches find a way to get him on the field. Even though he doesn’t posses the ideal size for a safety (5’10”, 200 lbs), he is a ball-hawk who will come up and hit receivers when they come across the middle. He is solid in coverage and his three interceptions are tied for the team lead. He plays with abandon and he is a sure tackler. His 66 tackles rank third on the team.
Ellis vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones: It seems Jones has shut down every top pass-rusher in the league this season and he gets yet another test this week with the relentless Ellis. If Jones can keep Ellis out of the Hawks’ backfield, the passing game may have a shot to get going early. That will allow the team to keep the Jets off balance and hopefully allow RB Shaun Alexander to get on track as well.
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jets secondary: The Jets pass defense ranks seventh in the NFL, giving up only 201.3 yards per game. They also have 16 interceptions and break well on the ball. The Seahawks offense has exploded the last two weeks, albeit against poor defenses, and it will be up to Hasselbeck to make plays down the field. Jets corners Donnie Abraham and David Barrett have been solid in coverage and they both have two interceptions. Coleman and SS Reggie Tongue are both good tacklers but they can be had with playaction. If Hasselbeck can use the play action, then he may be able to complete some long passes.
Jets LT Jason Fabini vs. Seahawks DE Antonio Cochran: With Wistrom out with a knee injury, Cochran is being called on again to rush the passer from the defensive end position. Cochran has been a pleasant surprise for the Hawks along the defensive line and his five sacks rank second on the team. He closes well on the quarterback and while he isn’t adept at speed rushing, he does have enough rush moves to get around tackles on a regular basis. Fabini has good footwork and his wingspan keeps rushers at bay. He is a better run-blocker than pass-blocker but he is good enough to keep most rushers off of Pennington. Fabini must control Cochran without needing help from a back or tight end, otherwise it will limit Pennington’s options in the passing game.
Martin vs. Seahawks run defense: With DTs Rocky Bernard and Marcus Tubbs missing their second game, the patchwork front-seven of the defense must again play “above their heads”. Stunts and slants kept the Vikings from pounding the ball consistently and you can expect more of the same this week. OLBs Chad Brown and Tracy White are expected to suit up and play this weekend and that will help control Martin. Martin doesn’t have a enough speed to get the corner so the Hawks need to bottle him up on the inside. If they can’t do that, it will be a very long day.
News and Notes:
The Seahawks have the fewest penalties in the league with 70; Martin (13,046) surpassed Jerome Bettis (13,037) last week for 5th place on NFL’s all-time rush list & needs 214 yards to pass Eric Dickerson (13,259) for 4th place; The Jets defense ranks second in the NFL in points allowed at 14.8 points per game; Under Edwards the Jets have a 6-2 record at home in December; The Seahawks lead the overall series with the Jets 8-7, but the Jets have won the last four.
PROBABLE: WR Bobby Engram (ankle); G Jerry Wunsch (knee)
DOUBTFUL: DT Rocky Bernard (knee); CB Bobby Taylor (knee)
OUT: LB Curtis Randall (hamstring); DT Marcus Tubbs (ankle); DE Grant Wistrom (knee)
PROBABLE: LB Victor Hobson (ankle); G Pete Kendall (knee)
OUT: DE John Abraham (knee)
Jets 28 – Seahawks 24
.NET Reporter Scott
Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.