Judging the Jets

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The 49ers return home after a two-game road stint to host their second consecutive AFC East opponent when they play the New York Jets on Sunday.

As the current division leaders at 8-4 the Jets have enjoyed a monster turn-around this year, largely due to the trade for, and the play by future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who has invigorated a team that won only four games in 2007.

However, the Jets opted to rely on a trick play midway thru the first quarter of their home game with the Denver Broncos by putting receiver Brad Smith in at quarterback for Favre. Smith attempted an end around reverse play to Jericho Cotchery, but Cotchery fumbled his pitch, and the loose ball was scooped up by safety Vernon Fox who returned the fumble 23 yards for a touchdown.

49ERSRankJETSRank
Total Offense26Total Offense11
Passing Offense18Passing Offense13
Rushing Offense25Rushing Offense8
Total Defense23Total Defense19
Run Defense18Run Defense4
Pass Defense28Pass Defense30
KOR Average11KOR Average5
PR Average6PR Average7
KO Coverage15KO Coverage6
PR Coverage16PR Coverage12
The Jets tied the game on the next drive, but they never once managed to actually capture a lead in a 34-17 letdown loss to the Denver Broncos as quarterback Jay Cutler stole the stage from Favre with 357 passing yards.

Prior to the defeat, the Jets were on an impressive roll, notching consecutive wins over the Patriots, and the till-then undefeated Tennessee Titans.

Still, they own a one-game advantage in the East and will look to distance themselves even further when they head to San Francisco this weekend.

And back to Favre, he's still got it. He's completed 68.7% of his passes on the year for 2,708 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and an overall 90.4 QB Rating.

Favre has been sacked 23 times, and has put the ball on the ground ten times, fortunately losing only two of them.

The Jets have used top picks and spent big dollars on the offensive line charged with shielding Favre. They signed right tackle Damien Woody and Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca in free agency this past off-season, after using a pair of first-round picks on center Nick Mangold and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson in the 2006 NFL Draft. Right guard Brandon Moore has been with the team since 2003, thus holding the most tenure with the team among the Jets offensive linemen.

The unit has opened up running lanes for a group of running backs that as a team has averaged 4.7 rushing yards per carry. Leading the pack is veteran running back Thomas Jones, who has already reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 233 carries for 1,088 yards.

Jones is coming off a 16-carry, 138 rushing day against the Broncos, a game in which he scored two touchdowns, including a 59-yarder. His scores brought his yearly total to 11, making him the team's top scoring threat, other than Favre who has thrown 20 TD passes.

Jones' backup, Leon Washington, is in his third-season out of Florida State. He has 61 carries on the year for 326 yards and an impressive 5.3 yards per carry average. He also holds the longest run play on the year with a 61-yard touchdown.

Helping out in the blocking game for the Jets talented backfield is one of the league's most reputable fullbacks in three-time Pro Bowler and 14-year veteran Tony Richardson.

Cotchery, who lost the pitch back on the Jets gadget play last week, has become Favre's most used target in the passing game. His 58 catches and 692 yards leads the team in both receptions and yardage.

Cotchery combined with the team's second leading receiver, Lavaranues Coles, to form the top-producing single receiving tandem in franchise history with 173 receptions in 2007. Coles is doing his part to stay even with Cotchery with 55 catches for 615 yards, and has outdone Cotchery's four receiving touchdowns with six of his own.

Tight end Dustin Keller is listed on the team's depth chart as the third-string tight end, but has great speed and is used quite a bit on offense and ranks third on the team in catches and yards with 40 grabs for 460 yards. Chris Baker is listed as the team's starting tight, but is more of a blocking tight end, who is backed up by a familiar face for Favre in former Green Bay tight end Bubba Franks.

Franks ranks second on the Packers all-time list for receptions and touchdowns among tight ends, and has fix catches for 47 yards.

As well as helping out in the run game, Washington is also heavily involved in the passing game, ranking fourth on the team with 34 catches for 288 yards.

On the defensive side, the Jets have been extremely unbalanced in 2008 with a 4th ranked run defense and a 30th ranked pass defense.

The Jets 3-4 front has been fierce against the run this year, allowing opponents only 82.1 yards per game.

Their top players up front are new additions this year in nose tackle Kris Jenkins, a three-time Pro Bowler, and inside backer Calvin Pace, a familiar foe to the 49ers as Pace got his start with the Arizona Cardinals.

Pace is second on the team in stops with 57 tackles, and also had five sacks and three forced fumbles.

Jenkins, who is very stout against the run with 36 tackles, also has some pass rush ability with four sacks on the year.

The team's leading pass rusher is veteran defensive end Shaun Ellis, who has seven sacks on the year.

Eric Barton, who starts inside at backer alongside Pace, tops the tackling charts with 89 tackles. He too has contributed to a Jets pass rush effort that ranks fifth in the league with 35 sacks, with a pair of his own.

The entire Jets linebacking corps has contributed in those sack efforts. Left outside backer Bryant Thomas has shown his pass rush ability with four sacks, while backup David Bowens, a replacement for the team's injured starter in David Harris, likewise has four sacks.

The Jets backend has seen some adjustments due to the team's struggles in stopping the pass. The Jets have added veteran cornerbacks Hank Poteat and Ty Law since the start of the season with Law moving into the starting lineup, opposite the Jets best corner, left cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Free safety Kerry Rhodes, who is a rock solid defender, has also seen a new face next to him in the starting lineup with Abram Elam working at strong safety in place of an injured Eric Smith.
Smith, who received the most attention this year for the hit that fractured Anquan Boldin's face has missed five straight games after suffering his third head injury in a four-game span.

After handling one of the league's best return tandem last week in Buffalo, the 49ers may have only one player to zero in on this week in the return game, but he's an elusive one in the Jets backup running back.

Washington is a smaller player with some serious shake to his return game. He's got a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the year, and a long punt return of 37 yards.

As for their specialists, the Jets feature Jay Feely, an 8-year veteran kicker who spent time with the Falcons, the Giants and the Dolphins before joining the Jets for the '08 season.

The Jets are on their second punter this season, after releasing Ben Graham, a former Australian Football League star following his poor outing against the Patriots. Reggie Hodges, a second-year punter who split the 2005 season with the Philadelphia Eagles and the St. Louis Rams, now handles the Jets' punting duties.

San Francisco will look to punt the Jets right out of town with their second-straight victory in Sunday's matchup at Candlestick.

Tune in on CBS for a 1:05 PM PST kickoff to catch the action.

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