San Diego Chargers vs. New York Jets: 5 Players You Need To Watch
Words will not decide the outcome of Sunday's game, but the two coaches will in another way. The Ryan-coordinated Jets defense takes on the Turner-led Chargers offense. How the two coaches use their toys will be the deciding factor to who comes away with a win, but other players will play huge roles.
5. Calvin Pace
Marcus McNeill will be a load to handle, but the Jets rank third in sacks while Calvin Pace has only three of the team's 17.
New York's front three is good, but the second-level linebackers will need to finish the plays like in any 3-4. Just because Philip Rivers won't be able to see his blind side, doesn't mean he won't feel pressure if Pace can get a consistent rush.
Pace will not only have to be good in rushing the quarterback, but holding up against McNeill in running situations. Norv Turner is phenomenal at scheming up successful running plays, and there's no reason he wouldn't have Ryan Matthews take handoffs off tackle.
4. Antonio Cromartie
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It was difficult deciding to take Antonio Cromartie over Malcom Floyd in their battle, but the former Charger has much more upside possibility.
The 6'2" cornerback won't be out leaped by the 6'5" receiver, but he could be burned deep as he has been frequently. Darrelle Revis will have Vincent Jackson limited, because Jackson doesn't have the acceleration of Brandon Marshall. The Dolphins receiver had over 100 yards last week.
Philip Rivers has a 6:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but Cromartie will have to take calculated gambles. For someone who can't count how many kids he has, math shouldn't be in the equation.
It's a 50-50 chance Cromartie sinks or swims. It's anyone's guess how the Jet performs.
3. Antonio Gates
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Most tight ends wouldn't be considered deciding factors going into NFL games. No tight ends are on Antonio Gates' level.
Add a "when healthy," to the last statement. Gates will have to be fresh coming off San Diego's bye against Rex Ryan's defense because the loud-mouth coach can coordinate a defense.
Opponents have been able to run off the Jets in 2011, including the Patriots. Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense can own the middle of the field because Gates is a huge mismatch for David Harris or Bart Scott. There's no way 5'8" safety Jim Leonard should have any coverage of Gates.
If Gates can play like the elite receiving option he is, the fifth worst defense in allowing rushing yards will have trouble keeping Ryan Mathews contained on inside runs.
2. Shaun Phillips
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San Diego has just eight sacks through five games, ranking the team No. 28 in the entire NFL. Shaun Phillips is supposed to be the best pass-rusher the Chargers have, and he admitted he needs to step up his game on Jim Rome is Burning Thursday.
LaDainian Tomlinson is starting for the Jets over Shonn Greene, but it won't make a huge difference for Brian Schottenheimer. LT won't run like he did for his father when he had a bolt on his helmet.
Expecting no "ground and pound," means that Phillips will need to find Mark Sanchez early and often. The task won't be easy as he goes up against D'Brickashaw Ferguson, a top-notch left tackle.
San Diego allows the eighth-worst completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks, and Sanchez loves to dip-and-dunk. The key will be not allowing Santonio Holmes to burn the Chargers deep, and that hinges on the amount of time Phillips gives or doesn't give Sanchez.
1. Dustin Keller
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Dustin Keller isn't an elite tight end, but he's still playing a position that is dominating the modern-day NFL landscape. The Chargers signed Takeo Spikes in the offseason, but the middle linebacker is best at stopping the run.
If safety Eric Weddle is assigned Keller, the Jets' target will need to win enough so Weddle keeps covering him throughout the game. The integrity at the back end of San Diego's defense will be sacrificed as a result.
Mark Sanchez loves short, risk-free passes, and Week 7 will be no different. Keller won't have to average 15 yards per catch or anything like that, but he'll need to grab around eight catches to set up a deep Santonio Holmes bomb later in the game.