Niners QB Alex Smith vs. Jets secondary minus CB Darrelle Revis
For the Niners to get back on track after being ambushed on the road by the Christian Ponder-led Vikings, Smith must regain the high-quality form he displayed while engineering the team to impressive victories over the Packers and Lions in the first two games. In San Francisco’s surprising 24-13 loss to Minnesota last Sunday, Smith took a step back, registering a pair of turnovers (an interception and a fumble) after seemingly making a habit of playing efficient, mistake-free football under center.
With more weapons at his disposal this season, Smith’s numbers are still very solid entering Week Four, despite his letdown last week. He ranks fifth in the NFC with a 102.7 passer rating and has done a decent job distributing passes primarily to three receivers — TE Vernon Davis (5-53-1 vs. Minnesota) and WRs Michael Crabtree (6-40) and Mario Manningham (5-56). On the outside looking in is free-agent addition Randy Moss, who despite his advanced age remains a legitimate big-play downfield threat in spot situations.
San Francisco’s passing game will be catching a major break going up against a Jets secondary that lost Revis, who is widely considered the NFL’s top cover corner, with a season-ending torn ACL suffered in the Jets’ 23-20 OT win over the Dolphins.
Entrusted with filling Revis’ industrial-sized shoes is third-year pro Kyle Wilson, a former first-round draft pick who has served as the Jets’ nickel back the last two seasons. Wilson, who has good quickness, improved his game last season, thanks in great part to working with Revis.
With Revis out of the mix, fellow CB Antonio Cromartie will now handle opposing teams’ best receivers. Cromartie has great size (6-2, 210) and speed and is a playmaker, but he has also been penalty-prone and can take too many chances.
Third-year pro Ellis Lankster, who by all accounts has been solid in practice, becomes the No. 3 corner in place of Wilson.
The Jets’ safeties are not known for their work in coverage. FS LaRon Landy, who had an 18-yard interception return for a TD vs. Miami, is the unit's best playmaker. Experienced SS Yeremiah Bell is strong in the box and a sure tackler, but he is not good in coverage.
Same goes for reserve S Eric Smith. While physical in the box and a vocal leader, Smith had real problems matching up with the league’s top tight ends last season — a trend that could bode well for the Niners' Davis this Sunday.