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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rex Ryan ain't too proud to beg — or at least ask nicely to borrow.
The Jets coach said this week he's talked at length to his brother Rob, defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, about slowing down multi-talented quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers offense this Sunday.
Rob Ryan's Saints limited Carolina to two field goals through three quarters in a 31-13 win over the Panthers last Sunday night.
Rex Ryan at first tried to act coy about the open collusion with Rob, but quickly laughed and admitted he'd spent a good deal of time talking with Rob this week in advance of facing the Panthers.
"Oh yeah, without question I've already talked to him," Rex Ryan said. "Our defenses are two different defenses — he has his own style, so do we. But again, without question I've already talked to him about the things he picked up. Just anything you would do against any opponent, but in particular he just played them this past week so I definitely already talked to him."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who coached under the brothers' father, Buddy Ryan, said he's not all that concerned about the conspiring siblings.
"I don't necessarily take a lot of stock in talking to a lot people throughout the league," Rivera said. "Whether he has something from his brother, that's great. I know Rex and Rob, and Rex is going to do what he does, I will tell you that. Rex is his own person. He may have gotten something from his brother, but he's going to call his own game."
Rob Ryan has been more than happy to contribute to the Jets' cause. If the Jets beat the Panthers and the Saints win Sunday at St. Louis, New Orleans would clinch the NFC South.
The Panthers (9-4) can clinch a playoff spot Sunday with a win over the Jets combined with losses by San Francisco and Arizona, and a loss or tie by either Philadelphia or Dallas. However, if Carolina loses Sunday and Arizona wins, the Panthers are suddenly on the outside looking in at the playoffs despite their record.
New York's (6-7) situation is more uncertain. The Jets are a game behind Baltimore and Miami in the race for the final wild-card spot in the AFC and a loss would likely seal their fate.
"How important is this game? Well, it means everything to us," Rex Ryan said. "What's behind us is behind us. We've learned from it and we're at this stage and we know we're going to do everything in our power to be at our very best when we play this game."
That especially goes for rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who has been wildly inconsistent all season.
Five things to watch for Sunday between the Jets and Panthers:
GOOD GENO, BAD GENO: Last Sunday, Good Geno got his first TD pass since Oct. 20 against New England and just his second in eight games, and also ran for a TD. It was his best game in almost two months, and the Jets put up a season-high 37 points. Good Geno benefited from having Jeremy Kerley, Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow in the lineup together for the first time since Week 4.
On the flip side, Bad Geno is quite capable of running the Jets playoff hopes — he has thrown 20 interceptions this season.
GRUNT YARDAGER: Yards won't be easy to come by on the ground as this game features the league's top two run defenses. The Jets had an uncharacteristically bad performance against the run on Sunday, allowing the Raiders to roll up 150 yards, including 123 by fullback Marcel Reece. It caused New York to fall to No. 2 against the run, one spot behind linebacker Luke Kuechly and the Panthers. The Panthers have struggled to mount any consistent running game in the past month and their majority of the yardage has come off scrambles by Cam Newton. To simulate Newton in practice, Ryan joked they thought about putting Calvin Pace at quarterback. "They're about the same size, I mean geez," Ryan said.
COMARTIE CONCERN: The Jets aren't sure if they will have top cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has a concussion. If Cromartie can't go it's unsure if they have anyone who could effectively cover Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith.
WAKEUP CALL: The Panthers had allowed just 13.7 points per game this season before giving up 31 to the Saints last week. It will be interesting to see how the defense responds a week after getting torched by Drew Brees, prompting Rivera to say "maybe we got a little full of ourselves" during an eight-game winning streak.
RED ZONE BLUES: The Panthers know they have to get back to scoring touchdowns in the red zone rather than settling for field goals as they did last week against the Saints.
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