AFC East Final Word: Jets at Chargers

January, 15, 2010
1/15/10
1:00
PM ET
AFC: Jets-Chargers: Graham | Williamson Colts-Ravens: Kuharsky | Walker
NFC: Cowboys-Vikings: Mosley | Seifert Saints-Cardinals: Yasinskas | Sando

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's playoff game between the New York Jets (10-7) and San Diego Chargers (13-3):

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Al Bello/Getty ImagesMark Sanchez should not try to win this game by himself.
1. Mark Sanchez needs to remain mindful of his limitations. The Jets' rookie quarterback is playing with gobs of confidence, and he's headed back to Southern California for the first time as a pro. And it happens to be a playoff game. He'll certainly be jacked up, but he'll need to remember he didn't carry the Jets into the postseason. Sanchez went along for the ride and needs to maintain that mindset by allowing the ground game and defense to shoulder the load.

Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will try to keep Sanchez from getting into a shootout with Philip Rivers. The only reason Sanchez should be airing it out is if the Jets get behind by a couple of scores.

2. The Chargers have won 11 straight, but do the Jets have more momentum? The Chargers are the NFL's hottest team on paper. But they had a bye last weekend, while the Jets continued their surge with a convincing road playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets have lost just once since Thanksgiving.

"Right now, all that momentum you're gathering, it's right now with two of the hottest teams in the league," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "We've won six out of seven. We feel pretty good about ourselves."

The Chargers did benefit from the week off. Their injury report listed a solitary player: punter Mike Scifres with a minor groin issue.

"The physical part has been an issue for us in the past, but now we are making sure everything is in place," Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. "Obviously, preparation is still the key but the fact that we are healthy and physically ready has me anxious to see how we're going to play this week."

3. The Jets need to get the Chargers to third down as often as possible. The defense's objective, of course, is to watch the chain gang flip the down marker to 4. The Jets have been the NFL's best at accomplishing that because they've been phenomenal on third down. Opponents converted a league-low 32 percent of their third downs and averaged only 14.8 first downs a game (2.1 fewer than the next stingiest defense) because the Jets have the No. 1 pass defense and love to blitz. The Chargers ranked seventh during the regular season in third-down conversions at 44 percent.

"The biggest thing you can do is minimize the third downs," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "They're by far the best team in the league on third-down defense, and they've been better the last six weeks than they were the first 10. They sometime in the game are going to get somebody free, and we’re just going to make sure that it doesn’t turn into a big play for them."

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