Every NFL contest has particular matchups that can decide who wins and who loses. On Sunday in MetLife, the New York Jets need to find those matchup advantages to beat the currently 5-0 Philadelphia Eagles.
Whether it’s attacking a certain player in a scheme, or believing they are better in certain spots, every organization in the NFL believes they can win on any given Sunday due to a specific matchup problem they pose. That “game within a game” can ultimately determine an outcome on game day.
For the Jets, they may be severe underdogs to the defending NFC Champs, but they certainly have spots where, if they win, can certainly make things interesting Sunday evening.
Let’s get to the top matchups to watch on Sunday here.
Top Matchups to Watch
Dallas Goedert vs. Jordan Whitehead/Michael Carter II
Everyone knows how good Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed are as a cornerback tandem. As one of the best pairings in football, the Jets possess two guys who can match up very well with Philadelphia’s receiving duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.
Philadelphia’s passing attack is more than just their two wideouts though. Dallas Goedert is still considered a top tight end in football and coming off a monster game against Los Angeles.
Having a plan to stop Goedert is an underrated key for the Jets on Sunday – especially for a team giving up the eighth most fantasy points to tight ends this season. There are plenty of ways New York can try to cover a player like Goedert, but few are expected to work.
Going into Sunday, I think it’s a safe bet that Jordan Whitehead or Michael Cart II will be the primary defender on the tight end. How they perform against him could very well determine the outcome on Sunday.
Quinnen Williams vs. Jason Kelce, Landon Dickerson, and Sua Opeta
As much as everyone wants to make Sunday about stopping Philadelphia’s weapons offensively, the true key to beating the undefeated Eagles lies in the trenches. If a team can overpower their offensive or defensive lines, they can feel very confident about winning that game.
That means an All-Pro player like Quinnen Williams will have to have a big game against the interior of the Eagles’ trenches. Whether he goes up against Dickerson, Kelce, Opeta, or all of them, Williams needs to leave his mark on this game. If he doesn’t, the underdog Jets could find themselves down in a hurry.
Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell vs. Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat
Much like the Jets’ defensive line needs to have a big game, their tackles are going to be extremely important in stopping Philadelphia’s vaunted edge rushers.
Both Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat are Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players and both are starting to catch fire over the last few weeks. Without Alijah Vera-Tucker in the lineup for New York, they have to find a way to produce at a high level on the outside with Max Mitchell in his place.
The Jets still have Mekhi Becton playing at a solid spot right now so they should feel confident that at least one side of the line is going to be fine, but it’s clear that Philadelphia is going to try to confuse Mitchell and send different waves at him on the right side. For New York to keep it close both tackles have to have a good game.
Zach Wilson vs. Sean Desai
Many analysts believe a team as dominant as the Eagles should be able to beat up a backup quarterback like Zach Wilson. The issue there is the fact that Philadelphia’s pass defense is not as good as many people expect. Their dynamic duo of James Bradberry and Darius Slay are giving up tons of separation and the rest of the secondary has given up a lot of breakdowns over the middle of the field.
Sunday is a perfect barometer for Wilson. If he can move the ball downfield against a secondary that has struggled all year, then they should be able to put up plenty of points. People also forget that in the last matchup these two teams had, Wilson was fantastic in the first half before the lack of talent around him crumbled. In the first half alone, Wilson went 10-12 passing and led three touchdown drives.
Philadelphia’s defense under Sean Desai may be different than what they had under Jonathan Gannon, but they still are susceptible to the pass. If the Eagles aren’t careful, the Jets and Wilson could be in for a big day.
Jalen Hurts vs. The Spy
Philadelphia employs one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in all of football. The improvements Jalen Hurts has made to his game have made him a top-five quarterback and one of the best players in the game today. That leaves defending him to be an incredible challenge that few teams are prepared to handle.
Probably the easiest way to defend a mobile quarterback like Hurts is to make sure you have a defender “spying” on him as he goes through his progressions, and then attacking him when he tries to scramble. It’s, of course, easier said than done, but teams have had success against the Eagles with this type of defense in 2023.
The big question for the Jets will be who is the spy on Hurts for Sunday? Will it be Bryce Huff, as he did in the second half against Denver? Tony Adams potentially? Or how about standout linebacker Quincy Williams?
Whoever ends up with that assignment will be under a lot of pressure as Hurts seems to be getting his legs back after a slow start to the season. Philadelphia’s offense is already a challenge but their quarterback needs to be contained to keep it close.