The San Francisco 49ers are coming off their first loss of the 2012 season, having been out-played and out-coached in Week 3 against Minnesota.
As we move ahead, the Niners are looking to bounce back to the form we saw in the first two weeks of the season. The 49ers were looking like one of the more dominant and balanced units in the league. How they recover from an eye-widening loss like the one they were just served will be very telling of this team's character.
The 49ers will continue their road trip, entering enemy territory for a second consecutive week. In Week 4, the 49ers will be in New Jersey to face New York Jets in a seemingly pivotal game early on. Both teams are 2-1, looking to stay near the top of their respective divisions. And they are both looking to bounce back from losses; San Francisco's affected their winning percentage, and New York's cost them a top-tier NFL player.
For that reason, the Jets will want to slow this game down and optimize their offensive opportunities with a balanced attack. With San Francisco's defense is coming off their least productive day against the run, they can expect a healthy dose of Shonn Greene.
So far in 2012, the 49ers currently have the 8th ranked run defense in the NFL, and it should be better, had it not been for Adrian Peterson racking up 80-plus yards. Christian Ponder even ran for 33 yards and a touchdown, which is rare -- not often does a runner break the plain against the Niners.
The Jets are 17th in rushing, which is supposed to be their team strength, with Shonn Greene, Tim Tebow and the wildcat package. Jets head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have tried to establish a power running game with a hint of misdirection.
Despite a big-time offensive performance against the division rival Bills in Week 1, the Jets only average 3.3 yards per attempt on the ground. When New York has their bad days and gets out-muscled, it's usually the offensive front that looks the worst for this team. The Jets fell to Pittsburgh following the Bills win -- but it's no mystery that the Steelers have a much more proficient and established defensive unit.
And like Pittsburgh, San Francisco runs an attacking 3-4 defense.
When it comes to the New York Jets, I don't know how else to describe it but mediocrity at it's finest. They are simply average at a lot of things and that includes running the football. They do not have depth nor an elite runner in their run-first offense -- it hurts their team's performance when their personnel does not fit their philosophy.
They also have a quarterback that outside the top-20, and a fluctuating offensive line. I do credit the offensive line for overcoming what they have and achieving a 2-1 record thus far, but collectively, they are still a very collapsable unit. The right opponent can overtake this offensive line and wreak havoc in the Jets backfield all day long.
Coming off a loss where their defense in particular had a serious identity crisis, I would expect them to rebound in Week 4. The 49ers should be back to their hungry style of play, with full effort and immaculate execution on a high percentage of the defensive snaps. They are capable of swarming and dominating the Jets front.
San Francisco's front seven will want to keep this game in front of them, and they can.
The 49ers defensive lineman are stout with gap control, and the linebackers are great filling in. Shonn Greene does not have the elite vision to locate and hit the holes quick enough. The holes quickly turn into tight seams, until they are eventually closed, and Green does not have the explosion to be consistent against them all day.
San Francisco's outside linebackers are also great at keeping runners boxed in, forced to go north and south into a wall of defenders. But even if Greene breaks one outside, he does not have the sideline-to-sideline speed that Patrick Willis has. Not to mention NaVorro Bowman, who is currently the NFL's leading tackler (37).
I anticipate a long day for the Jets running game.