Seattle is currently running the ball well, the Jets stop the run well. The Jets are running the ball well, Seattle stops the run well. The Seahawks are starting to come around in the passing game, and the Jets are one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. These matchups feel fairly predictable. Seattle will likely get a good number of plays throwing the ball, and both teams will have alright days running but are unlikely to do especially well.
So, if those are not the pivotal battle then that leaves the Jets Passing Offense squaring off against the Seahawks Passing Defense.
New York Jets
Ryan Fitzpatrick had an all time terrible game in Week 3 as he unraveled to the tune of 6 interceptions. For all the handful of solid seasons he has had, Fitzpatrick has never been a remarkably accurate Quarterback. Even last year in what was a career season for him he completed just under 60% of his passes for 31 Touchdowns and 15 Interceptions. As a matter of fact, he has never completed more than 63% of his passes or thrown less than 15 Interceptions in a season in which he attempted more than 400 passes. He has flashes of brilliance here and there, but in the end he is a pretty average QB with mediocre accuracy.
What Fitzpatrick does have around him are some serious weapons. Eric Decker is one of the NFL’s best #2 Receivers, catching more than 70 passes in each of the last 4 seasons. However, Decker will be out on Sunday. That leaves Brandon Marshall who is a tough matchup and a true #1 Receiver, and up and coming Quincy Enunwa to go along with Matt Forte who is one of the best pass catching Runningbacks in the NFL today. Marshall may be 32 years old, but Wide Receivers don’t age quite the same as Runningbacks and the 6’4 Marshall caught 1500 yards worth of passes last year. His catch radius is insane and his understanding of the game makes him difficult to play against. Enunwa came out of Nebraska a few years ago as a projectable player who was very raw, but with plenty of speed and a 6’2 225Lb body he is a very dangerous player. Even without Decker, this is a 1-2 punch at WR that has a lot of length and the ability to use long arms to pull in passes from a somewhat inaccurate passer like Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Matt Forte is his own story. This may be Forte’s first year with the Jets, but in his time with Chicago he has established himself as one of the best in the league at catching the ball out of the backfield. He has never had less than 30 catches in a season, and never less than 300 yards receiving. So far is 2016 he has carried the ball a ton and still has managed 9 catches for 67 yards, which has him averaging 7.4 yards per catch. He has a little wiggle and he is a smart route runner who can turn the ball up field and make something happen once he gets it. Tight Ends are usually the safety valve for an Offense, but the Jets use Forte instead.
The Seahawks may be one of the only teams in the NFL to be able to match the Jets size and length at Receiver with size and length of Defensive Backs. Richard Sherman, who will likely be locked up on Quincy Enunwa, is 6’3 and one of the best Cornerbacks in the league. DeShawn Shead (6’1) and Jeremy Lane (6’0) are by no means small either. Shead and/or Lane will likely draw a difficult matchup with Marshall, but they will at least be able to hold up to and even match his physicality. Throw in some Safety help over the top from Earl Thomas and from a physical standpoint you could argue Seattle has the upper hand.
Matt Forte represents the bigger threat to the team. The Seattle Defense is 18th in the NFL, surrendering 40.3 receiving yards per game to Runningbacks. Teams are also throwing to their Runningbacks against Seattle, to the tune of 5.5 times per game. To contrast that, the #2 Wide Receiver, who is usually matched up against Richard Sherman, only sees and NFL low 3.2 throws their way per game and averages just 24.7 yards (4th lowest). If there is anywhere the team is going to get burned in the pass game it is with Forte. What can help though is that patterns for Forte are likely to be shallow, and with how the team has been crashing down on and tackling pass catchers on short patterns, the Jets will have to rely on Fitzpatrick completing a lot of passes to sustain drives.
While it is possible that the Jets passing game gets going and Fitzpatrick has one of his fluky perfect games, it would appear the advantage here would go to Seattle. The Seahawks will win if Ryan Fitzpatrick turns the ball over once or twice and throws with middling accuracy to his targets, which Defenders make sure tackles and prevent the big play. It is simply unlikely that the Jets passing game will be accurate enough to sustain drives with many short passes in a row. What the Jets want to do (take long shots down field, use Wide Receiver size, run the ball up the middle to set up the pass) is exactly what the Seahawks are designed to stop.
A Seahawks win is far from a sure thing, but it looks highly unlikely the Seattle Defense would be responsible for a loss.