Make no mistake about it, the Jets are confident heading into Sunday’s AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Chargers. Coach Rex Ryan even went as far as to give his team a schedule that ends with a Super Bowl victory parade in downtown Manhattan. But first thing’s first, and that’s a matchup against the hottest team in the AFC—the San Diego Chargers. Here are three story lines heading into this weekend’s game:
Ground and Pound
The Jets have the No. 1 rushing attack in the league and will look to continue their dominance up front in San Diego. Gang Green has developed an identity and it is one of a physical unit (on both sides of the ball) that will stay committed to the run at all costs because they are built for it.
It doesn’t hurt that the Chargers were ranked 20th against the run during the regular season and 16th in overall defense. The two-headed monster consisting of Thomas Jones and rookie Shonn Greene combined for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the Wild Card victory over Cincinnati.
With that said, the most intriguing part of this will be how effective the Jets will be given the fact that the Chargers know Jets will (and must) run the ball to have success on offense.
Strength on Strength
Philip Rivers leads a Chargers’ offense that was the fifth best passing team in the NFL during the regular season (271.1 YPG). Darrelle Revis leads a Jets’ defense that was ranked first overall and first against the pass. Something has got to give, right?
The challenge for the Jets will be dealing with San Diego’s vast arsenal of weapons. WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates each had over 1,000 yards receiving in 2009 and six players caught at least 20 passes. Oh yeah, they still have LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. And although he’s not the player he once was, he’s still very dangerous and has the ability to score on any given play.
You have to figure that Revis will get matched up on Jackson and S Kerry Rhodes will take on Gates. But what about Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee? There’s also Darren Sproles who caught 45 passes coming out of the backfield and FB Mike Tobert who caught 25. See what I mean?
If there’s any week where the Jets dress as many defensive backs as possible, it’s this week. Rex Ryan is a defensive mastermind and will surely come up with something that the Chargers have yet to see on film. It should be interesting to watch when these two units are on the field.
Last week Mark Sanchez had the highest quarterback rating (139.4) for any rookie in a playoff game—ever! And while it’s unlikely that he will replicate that performance, the Jets are going to need to him to continue to play smart, turnover-free football if they’re going to have a chance to beat the Chargers.
As I pointed out before last week’s game, there will come multiple points in the game where the Jets will face 3rd-and-long and Sanchez will have to make a throw in a big spot, under pressure. The outcomes of those plays will ultimately determine the Jets’ chances in this game.
Last week he passed the test. Jets’ fans are hoping he passes his second exam this week.