A not-so-bold prediction: The New York Jets will play better Friday night against the Atlanta Falcons than they did last week in the preseason opener -- a 23-3 loss to the Detroit Lions in which they were outgained by a 3-to-1 margin.
It has to get better.
Some of the storylines at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET kickoff):
1. Extending Fitz: The Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense had only nine plays in the opener (six runs, three passes), so the chemistry experiment still is in the preliminary stages. Fitzpatrick knows the offense better than anyone not named Chan Gailey, but he has to get comfortable with the players around him. He'll have about five quarters (two this week, three next week) to get that accomplished before the season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Look for Gailey to spread the field this week, getting more receivers on the field as he tries to ratchet up the passing attack.
2. Emphasis on tackling: Todd Bowles, disappointed by the shoddy tackling against the Lions, made it a priority during the week. The defense responded with an intense, almost chippy attitude on the practice field. Another sub-par performance would raise eyebrows, considering the high expectations for the unit. Bowles vowed to get it fixed. There will be a shortage of bodies on the defensive line. With Muhammad Wilkerson (hamstring) and Ronald Talley (groin) nursing injuries, Stephen Bowen will get the start alongside Damon Harrison and rookie Leonard Williams. Sheldon Richardson, relegated to backup duty as he serves his pre-suspension penance, could see time with the starters.
3. Spotlight on Cro: Frankly, I think this Antonio Cromartie/slump story is being blown out of proportion. Yeah, he's had a few hiccups in camp, but he's a proven veteran. The Jets have bigger problems than worrying about Cromartie, who believes his slow start can be attributed to experimenting with different techniques in practice. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, but, of course, we'll keep an eye on him anyway. Matt Ryan & Co. can provide a stiff test for the pass defense.
4. Sorting out the receivers: After Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall, the Jets don't have much clarity with regard to roles. Quincy Enunwa is getting a great chance to be the No. 3, but Jeremy Kerley still is a factor. Kerley, perhaps motivated by his slip on the depth chart, responded with an excellent week of practice. The coaches also hope to see some separation among the next tier of players -- namely Shaquelle Evans, DeVier Posey, T.J. Graham, Walter Powell and Saalim Hakim.