Forget Sanchez, It's About the Defense This Week

The quarterback gets the headlines, but this is the defense's week to shine

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Bad news out of Jets camp on Friday afternoon: Neither Jerricho Cotchery nor Brad Smith will be in the lineup when the team takes the field in Oakland on Sunday afternoon. That means the offense is going to look exactly the same as the one that folded up and died against the Bills which means that this probably isn't the right week to expect a bounceback from Mark Sanchez.

    For all the talk about Sanchez's inability to handle the weather and Brian Schottenheimer's problems picking the right plays to call, there's been very little about how much the team missed those two wide receivers last weekend. Sanchez already had issues with locking onto one receiver, but they were exacerbated by the lack of options and the fact that very few guys were getting open. And, if all that weren't bad enough, Dustin Keller's dropping passes to make the entire passing game a big, fat mess and one of the NFL's best cornerbacks, Nnamdi Asomugha, will be shutting down Braylon Edwards.

    So if the Jets win, it probably won't be on the right arm of their prized rookie. That's okay, because if the Jets put Sanchez in the position of winning the game for them, he can just as easily lose it for them. The Jets should be able to run the ball, as the Raiders struggle to stop teams on the ground, but 300-plus yards may not be happening again. Whatever the offense gives them, they should be happy to take and have the defense take over from there.

    They haven't done that in either of the last two losses, either because they weren't prepared for the Wildcat of Miami or overconfident about stopping the stumbling Bills. That can't happen against an offense as ripe for exploitation as the Raiders. JaMarcus Russell turns the ball over like it's laced with swine flu and their already mediocre running game is missing Darren McFadden because of injury. As the Giants showed two weeks ago, they can't stand up to a concerted, endless defensive onslaught which is just what the Jets have been lacking the last two weeks.

    This is the kind of game that Rex Ryan's defense won all by itself for years in Baltimore. The kind of game that turns on a fumble recovery for a touchdown or a sack and strip that halts all of the opposition's momentum. It ends with Sanchez saying that when you've got a defense like this, all you want to do is not screw everything up so much that the game gets away from you. 

    And it's the kind of game where you back up all of the talking by showing that when you execute, you can't be beat. That's what the Jets need this weekend, because the alternative is a premature end to the meaningful part of their season.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.