AFC Divisional Round: New York Jets vs. San Diego Chargers
Sunday's game between the Jets and the Chargers will prove to be a classic matchup between the best defense and one of the best offenses in the league. The Jets defense ranks first in points, total yards, and passing yards allowed per game and, rank 8th in rushing yards allowed averaging slightly less than 100 yards per game.
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers offense ranks in the top five in points and passing yards per game as well as ranks in the top ten in total yards per game. The only weakness in the Chargers offensive attack lies in their running game as they rank 31st , averaging a meager 88.9 yards per game.
Both teams are entering this game with hot streaks as the Jets finished off their season with two straight victories over playoff teams and were victorious last week with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 24-14. The Chargers enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the league, currently riding an eleven-game winning streak.
A few years back in 2005, these two teams played an epic game in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The game went into overtime and the Chargers had an opportunity to win the game but Nate Kaeding missed a 40-yard field goal which set the Jets up with great field position. New York drove down the field and won the game on a 28-yard field goal off the foot of Doug Brien by the score of 20-17.
The Chargers are a much better team this season and look to be a favorite to contend for the Super Bowl. The Chargers are a team with a high powered offense that can make explosive plays for big gains at any moment during a game.
The Chargers are led by Pro-Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers who has passed for 4,254 yards this season and was a candidate for MVP this year as well. Rivers has completed 65.2 percent of his passes this season and has thrown 28 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions.
The Chargers offense is so explosive because Rivers has the ability to throw the long ball to his tall receivers down field and give them chances to out jump their defenders. San Diego has the tallest receivers in the NFL and that is a huge factor when it comes to coverage since Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, and Malcom Floyd all have good hands and can out-jump almost every defender in the league.
On offense, the Chargers only weakness lies in their running game as they rank 31st in the league averaging 88.9 rushing yards per game. San Diego does have a future hall-of-famer, in my opinion, leading their ground game in LaDainian Tomlinson, as well as one of the quickest and most explosive players in the game in Darren Sproles. Tomlinson has struggled this season but he has not been asked to run the ball as much since Rivers has the ability to air it out to his sure-handed receivers.
The Jets, on the other hand, have the best rushing attack in the league averaging 172.2 yards per game. The Jets running game is led by Thomas Jones who rushed for 1,402 yards this season with 14 touchdowns. As of late, New York has also been featuring the talents of rookie running back Shonn Green to offset Jones. Green ran for 135 yards with a touchdown in last week’s playoff game against Cincinnati.
The Jets beat the Bengals with the help of their defense which ranks first in points allowed, total yards, and passing yards per game. They also rank in the top ten in rushing yards allowed per game which spells bad news for San Diego who struggles running the ball already.
The Jets defense is led by Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris who have accounted for 20 sacks combined this season. New York’s secondary is also very strong with the likes of Darrelle Revis, Dwight Lowry, and Kerry Rhodes patrolling the middle of the field. Revis has been one of the best defensive players in the league this season and has shut down nearly ever top receiver he has had to face. In the past two weeks, Revis has only allowed two receptions for 28 yards to Cincinnati’s main target, Chad Ochocinco.
Revis has accumulated six interceptions over the season with one of those being returned for a touchdown. Lowery and Rhodes have also contributed to the Jets shut down secondary, as both have three interceptions of their own to show for.
So far this season, the only weakness it seems for the Jets has been the quarterback play from rookie Mark Sanchez, who has thrown for 2,444 yards on the season with a completion percentage of 53.8. Sanchez has also thrown for 12 touchdowns to 20 interceptions which have hurt his team at times this season.
Last week though, Sanchez completed 80 percent of his passes and threw for 182 yards with a touchdown. In order for the Jets to win against the Chargers they must do exactly what they did last week against the Bengals.
New York kept their young quarterback in check by running the ball for the majority of the time and only made Sanchez throw 15 passes the entire game. The Jets must stick with their game plan and run the ball effectively with Jones and Green while allowing Sanchez to dink-and-dunk here and there when necessary.
The Chargers keys to victory will be on both sides of the ball as San Diego will need to stop the running attack of the Jets and be able to put up the offensive numbers that they are accustomed too.
The game will be decided by how well the Chargers offense can fair against the top-rated defense in the New York Jets. I believe that the Chargers will be limited in the passing game but San Diego will have their fair share of big plays and the Chargers will score enough points to hold off the Jets.
New York will not allow San Diego to score as many points as they have averaged per game thus far this season but I do believe that Rivers will make them pay with some deep balls to his talented receiving corp, and lead the Chargers to the AFC Championship game.
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