New York Jets-Detroit Lions could be decided by the enormous talent gap at one position
Sunday’s matchup between the New York Jets and Detroit Lions is a battle between two teams who play very different styles of football.
Robert Saleh‘s Jets are a gritty defensive-minded team, ranking 22nd in scoring (20.3 PPG) but allowing the sixth-fewest points (18.7 PPG). Dan Campbell’s Lions are an electric offense-first team, ranking fifth in scoring (26.8 PPG) but struggling mightily on defense with a No. 31 ranking in points allowed (26.7 PPG).
When comparing the depth charts of these two teams, a massive disparity stands out at one position, and it sums up why New York is so strong defensively and Detroit is not: cornerback.
Arguably, this game will feature the NFL’s best cornerback unit versus the NFL’s worst cornerback unit.
Seen below is a ranking of all 32 NFL cornerback units based on yards allowed per coverage snap.
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New York’s cornerback unit ranks first with a league-low 0.776 yards allowed per cover snap. Detroit is in the No. 32 spot with 1.468 yards allowed per cover snap.
Not only do the Lions’ cornerbacks rank 32nd in this category, but the gap between them and the 31st-ranked team is enormous. Detroit trails 31st-ranked Chicago by 0.152 yards per cover snap. That is similar to the gap between Chicago and 21st-ranked Green Bay.
Speaking of Chicago’s cornerback unit, the Jets faced it three weeks ago at MetLife Stadium and absolutely carved it up. Mike White had one of the most efficient single-game passing performances in Jets history as he completed 22 of his 28 passes for 315 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (149.3 passer rating). Now, White and the Jets get to face off against a cornerback unit that is a whole different level of bad compared to Chicago’s.
From the Lions’ perspective, facing the Jets’ top-ranked cornerback unit is bad news considering their track record this season against elite cornerback units. Against teams whose cornerback unit ranks top-10 in the list above, the Lions are 0-3. Those games came against the Eagles (3rd, 0.850), Seahawks (9th, 1.006), and Patriots (10th, 1.022). Only one of those three games came on the road: the Patriots game, and the Lions lost 29-0.
Watch out for the difference in cornerback play on each side of the field this Sunday. It could be the difference-maker that puts New York over the top.