On Sunday the New York Jets head out west to take on the high-powered San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium (4:40 EST). The Chargers (2nd seed) enter this division round playoff game winners of 11 games in a row, while Gang Green (5th seed) is coming off of an impressive wild card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Lets take a look at some of the keys to game from the Jets perspective.
New York Jets Offense vs. Chargers Defense
1) Get the rookies going early – This is not the game for the Jets offense to sit back and wait for points to come to them. Gang Green must crank up their offensive engines early, getting both quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene into the flow of the game. Getting both rookies involved in the game plan early will not only get rid of their jitters, but will help the offense set an aggressive tone for the game. It is essential for Gang Green to come out strong and put some points on the board.
2) Play it like you own it- The Jets offensive line must control the line of scrimmage, and not just in running situations. The Chargers are not known for their pass rush but do have quality cornerbacks in Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. Sanchez must have time to look over the defense and not have to face continuous pressure that will force him into making poor throws.
3) Control the ball and the clock- While every team would love to have a quick strike offense, the Jets need to control the ball as well as the time of possession. This strategy will serve three purposes; A) It will keep the high powered Charger offense off of the field B) It will take the crowd out of the game C) It will wear down the San Diego defense leaving them vulnerable in the later stages of the game.
4) Catch the damn ball- It is no secret that the Jets offense is built around their running game, but when the Jets are in passing situations the receivers must come up with big plays. Braylon Edwards has dropped two potential touchdown passes over the last couple of weeks and that trend needs to end if the Jets are going to have any success in the passing game.
5) All hands on deck- As mentioned earlier the Chargers have solid starting corners in Cromartie and Jammer, therefore the Jets will need to utilize spread formations to loosen up the defense. With the chance that both Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards are covered, the Jets will need players like Brad Smith, Dustin Keller, David Clowney and Danny Woodhead to step up and make plays. Whether it is in quick slants, screens, or straight go routes, these guys are going to have to make plays for their quarterback.
New York Jets Defense vs. Chargers Offense
1) Pressure, pressure, pressure- The Chargers offense is built around their passing game, which was ranked 5th in NFL, averaging over 270 yards a game. Quarterback Philip Rivers is one of the best in the NFL and is armed with several tall, explosive weapons. The Jets must find a way to get to Rivers early and keep him out of sync with his playmakers. If Rivers has time in the pocket it will be a long day for Gang Green.
2) Become ‘Gates Keepers’- Tight End Antonio Gates is a huge part of the Charger passing game (79 catches, 1157 yards, 8 tds) and is match-up nightmare for most defenses. The Jets must find a way to contain Gates whether it is with safety Kerry Rhodes following him all over the field or with bracket coverage like the scheme used against the Colts’ Dallas Clark.
3) Bring your screen block-When the running game struggles San Diego tends to use a variety of screen passes to move the chains. Darren Sproles is the most explosive threat out of the backfield, with the ability to take it the distance at any moment. Gang Green must find ways to control the screen passes without giving up big plays down the field.
4) Do not forget LT- LaDainian Tomlinson is on the downside of his career but can still be a very effective runner. The Jets cannot allow LT to get going early on or they will have a long day trying to slow down the Chargers offense. LT is a very prideful player and could take over the game if the Jets do not pay enough attention to the running game.
5) Bring a ladder- Not only are the Chargers receivers explosive, but they are all very tall. San Diego’s Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd both stand at 6-5, while Jets corners Darrelle Revis and Lito Sheppard come in at 5-11 and 5-10 respectively. This size advantage could give the Jets secondary fits, especially if Rivers has time to throw the ball. Vincent Jackson (68 catches, 1167 yards, 9tds) is one of Rivers favorite targets and it will be interesting to see how All-Pro Revis handles him.
1) Tackle, tackle, tackle-As mentioned above Darren Sproles is a very explosive player and the Jets must find a way to contain him in the return game. The Jets special teams have struggled most of the year and if they continue to do so in this game, Gang Green will have no chance to win.
2) Stay even in the punting game- The Chargers have one of the best punting games in the NFL and the Jets must try to stay even in the field position battle. Punter Steve Weatherford missed last week’s game due to an irregular heartbeat, but is expected to play on Sunday. Weatherford must perform well as the Jets cannot afford to give the Chargers offense short fields to work on.
As you can see the Jets are going to have their hands full with the San Diego Chargers. Many experts have picked the Chargers to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and rightfully so as the team brings a lot to the table. Can the Jets shock the world and beat San Diego? Stay tuned on Sunday morning for my prediction.
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