Here at The Falcoholic, we like to think we keep you incredibly well-informed on all things Falcons. We’re not nearly as diligent in covering the Jets, so I’ve enlisted the help of New York expert MacGregor Wells. MacGregor is a deputy manager over at Gang Green Nation, SB Nation’s site covering all things New York Jets.
I brought five questions to MacGregor on a variety of topics, including his thoughts on New York’s quarterback situation, the struggles of the offense, and how Atlanta can attack the Jets’ strong defense.
1) The Jets are enduring a lot of questions at the QB position heading into Week 13. While it seems extremely unlikely Aaron Rodgers will be activated this week, who is likely to start? Do you have any faith in that guy, whoever it is?
MacGregor Wells: Tim Boyle will start for the Jets at quarterback on Sunday, barring any last minute illness or injury. I have zero faith in Boyle. He’s not an NFL caliber quarterback. Zach Wilson and Trevor Siemian are both better options, though they both kinda stink too. The Jets have zero winning options at quarterback, but Boyle is the worst of the three. Leave it to the Jets to pick the worst option.
2) The Jets have actually run the ball very efficiently, but don’t seem to emphasize that part of the offense. Why hasn’t New York leaned on the ground game more, and would you expect that to change this week?
MW: The Jets ran the ball decently early in the season, when the offensive line still had most of its starters. Lately the Jets have been really banged up on the offensive line, and they’ve been starting rookies, practice squad dudes, and dudes signed off the street. It’s been very ugly, and the predictable result has been a ground game that can’t get much going. Not to worry though, the Jets also feature a passing game that is as bad as any in the NFL.
In addition to the problems on the offensive line, the Jets have been playing from behind most of this season. The game scripts have forced the Jets to abandon the run in many games, further derailing an impotent Jets ground game.
Like most recent weeks, I expect the Jets to try and establish the run, and fail miserably. If the Jets catch a break, maybe Breece Hall finds a crease occasionally and rips off a big play or two. Otherwise, the Jets run game will likely be terrible as usual on Sunday.
3) Atlanta has had their most success when they’ve been able to run the ball. The Jets are among the league’s worst run defenses, simply because of volume at this point. How much does Atlanta’s run game behind Bijan Robinson concern you heading into this game?
MW: Al Woods was an unsung hero for the Jets on the defensive line. He was the only massive run stuffer the Jets had on the roster. When he was placed on injured reserve after Week 6, the Jets were left with an undersized defensive front. Quinnen Williams is very good against the run, but the Jets don’t really have any other run stuffers on the defensive line. The results since Week 6 have been predictable. The Jets have struggled badly against the run since Woods went down. It was never really a strength for the Jets this season anyway; they are built to stop the pass. But since Woods went down it has been a really tough struggle against the run for the Jets defense.
Bijan Robinson will almost certainly hurt the Jets on the ground and through the air on Sunday. The question is, will he get into the end zone? The Jets are OK with allowing opponents to move the ball on the ground as long as they can limit the damage to field goals. If the Falcons score touchdowns, the Jets will not have much of a chance in this game.
4) If the Falcons need to pass the ball, things could get ugly against New York’s vaunted pass defense. Is there anywhere in the secondary where Atlanta could look to attack?
MW: Attacking the cornerbacks is usually not a very successful strategy against the Jets. In my opinion the Jets’ Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter are the best starting cornerback trio in the NFL. However, you can have success attacking the Jets’ safeties. They aren’t great in pass coverage. Isolate running backs, tight ends and slot receivers against the safeties and you can hurt the Jets. With Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson, the Falcons seem better equipped than most teams to execute that strategy.
5) The Falcons are currently 2.5-point favorites heading into New York. What’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
MW: I don’t have any confidence that the Jets offense will produce much this week or any week. However, Desmond Ridder seems like the kind of quarterback the Jets defense can force into some damaging mistakes. At some point this season the Jets will probably squeeze out another of their low scoring, defense led victories. This seems like as good a week as any. The Falcons have had multiple offensive turnovers in a majority of their games this season. I’ll go the admittedly homer route and predict the Jets defense will do enough in this game for the Jets to squeeze out a low scoring victory. Maybe something like Jets 13, Falcons 12. Probably just wishful thinking.
Many thanks to MacGregor for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re in the mood for a Jets perspective on things, you can follow Gang Green Nation at @GangGreenNation.
Looking for more Falcons-Jets coverage? Check out our Dirty Birds & Brews game preview show.