The New York Jets have been stellar on special teams over the past few weeks. The Green Bat Packers? Not so much.
Just take a look at the numbers; they tell you all you need to the difference between Mike Westhoff’s crew and the Pack’s third unit.
KR Brad Smith leads the AFC with a 31.8-yard return average. PR Jim Leonhard ranked second in the conference in punt return average with 12.3 yards per game.
P Steve Weatherford also leads the AFC with a punting average of 45.5 yards per game.
But perhaps the biggest surprise has been PK Nick Folk. The Jets went with Folk over veteran Jay Feely in the offseason. It was a big gamble at the time; Folk missed ten of 28 kicks with the Dallas Cowboys in 2009. But after a shaky training camp, Folk has been superb. He’s nailed 13-of-15 attempts, including a team-record 56-yarder two weeks ago against the Broncos.
Special teams’ success can have a domino effect on games, simultaneously firing up the sideline and putting the offense or defense in position to succeed.
“Of course, everybody loves it on the sideline when we come up with a big play,” Weatherford said. “And when we put teams inside the ten, I don’t think many teams can take it 90 yards back on our defense.”
The Packers, on the other hand, rank 25th in kick-return average, 30th in net punt average and are tied for 24th in field-goal percentage. They are also giving up a ton of yards on punt returns. They rank 30th in punt return yards allowed per punt and 26th in net punt return average allowed.
Westhoff says those numbers are a product of the 62-yard punt-return touchdown Green Bay allowed to Chicago’s Devin Hester. Still, Westhoff praised Leonard’s athleticism and mentioned that his blockers are doing a great job creating holes for the Jets safety.
Those holes are likely to be bigger and open for longer against the Pack.