BY SCOTT FONTANA
The Jets' slim playoff hopes are still alive, but they've got their work cut out for them on Sunday in Carolina. Gang Green (6-7) can get back to .500 with a win, but the Panthers (9-4) are still fighting to lock up an NFC playoff spot. Here are three things that need to go right in order for the Jets to upset Carolina.
Dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton is on track for career highs in touchdown passes and completion percentage, but wasn't as effective in last week's 31-13 loss to the Saints in which he absorbed five sacks. The Jets pass rush, led by Muhammad Wilkerson (10.0 sacks), must keep the heat on the Panthers quarterback while preventing him from taking off and running. But watch out: Newton has a run of 11 or more yards in 10 of 13 games this season.
Breach the wall
The only team that, statistically speaking, defends the run better than the Jets is the Panthers. Considering how much the Jets offense relies on a strong rushing attack, it's imperative that Chris Ivory (4.4 ypc) break off another long run this week, or at least build up a head of steam on a few drives. If Carolina keeps him and Bilal Powell in check, that will put too much pressure on Geno Smith to make plays against the league's fifth-ranked pass defense.
Step up, secondary
Once a renowned strength of the Jets defense, the defensive backs have been beaten, week after week. Top cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has struggled mightily after a strong 2012, could sit this week after suffering a concussion in last week's 37-27 win over the Raiders. This could be a chance for 2013 first-rounder Dee Milliner to start proving his doubters wrong if he can hold an aging Steve Smith (60 catches, 681 yards, 4 touchdowns) in check.