FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- There's a lot of pressure on the New York Jets. They don't want to be the team that disrupts the AFC East's domination of the defending NFC champions.
The Atlanta Falcons are coming to town this week with a broken offense and a three-game losing streak, having lost to the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. If the Falcons fall to the Jets, they'd become the 90th team since 2002 to go 0-4 against a division other than their own. Of the 89, only two made the playoffs.
A year ago, the Falcons (3-3) led the NFL in scoring (33.8 points per game). Under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who replaced Kyle Shanahan, they're averaging 21.3, one of the sharpest declines in NFL history. Before a late touchdown against the Patriots last Sunday night, they had gone 91 minutes, 20 seconds without a score. Stunning.
A closer look at the Falcons:
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH, OFFENSE
QB Matt Ryan -- It has been a frustrating year for the reigning NFL MVP. Ryan already has six interceptions, one shy of his 2016 total. On Sunday night, he missed some open receivers in the red zone and his deep-ball accuracy has regressed this season. Is it the change in coordinators? That's the hottest question in Atlanta. The Jets should proceed with caution because he's capable of a turnaround at any moment.
RB Devonta Freeman -- He has the kind of speed and elusiveness that could cause real problems for the Jets, who struggle against shifty backs. The 5-foot-8 dynamo is ninth in rushing yards (425) and has five rushing touchdowns. And the dude doesn't fumble.
WR Julio Jones -- The 6-foot-3 receiver presents a serious matchup problem for the Jets' smallish cornerbacks. Remarkably, he didn't score his first touchdown until last Sunday, when he ripped the ball away from cornerback Malcolm Butler. His numbers (34 catches, 466 yards) are down this year, but he's still freakishly talented and due for a monster game.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH, DEFENSE
LB Vic Beasley -- Picking sixth in 2015, the Jets could've drafted Beasley, but they opted for Leonard Williams. Beasley went to the Falcons two picks later. When healthy, he's a pass-rushing demon on the edge. He recorded a league-high 15.5 sacks last season, terrorizing quarterbacks with his speed. He rushes mostly from the defensive left, meaning the right tackle (Brandon Shell or Brent Qvale) will have a huge assignment. He has three sacks in four games; he missed two with a hamstring injury.
LB Deion Jones -- He's the Falcons' version of Darron Lee, an undersized inside linebacker who relies on speed. The 2016 second-round pick, drafted 32 spots after Lee, has a team-high 49 tackles and one sack.
S Keanu Neal -- They produce good safeties at Florida. The Falcons drafted Neal in the 2016 first round, and the Jets picked Marcus Maye in the 2017 second round. Neal was terrific as a rookie (five forced fumbles), but he has yet to make any impact plays this season. Unlike Maye, a free safety, Neal plays a lot near the line of scrimmage.