Sunday, January 10, 2010
Quick Take: Jets at Chargers
By Tim Graham
Three things to know about next Sunday's divisional playoff game between the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium:
1. The Jets match up well in critical areas. The Jets might've preferred facing the Indianapolis Colts next weekend. The Jets already have beaten a version of the Colts, wouldn't have had to travel across the continent and would be facing a team that hadn't won in four weeks. But a look at the Chargers' statistical rankings shows promise if you're a Jets fan. The Cincinnati Bengals trampled the Jets with 171 rushing yards, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. The Chargers, however, ranked 31st in rushing offense and averaged 3.3 yards a carry. Philip Rivers conducts a scary pass offense, ranking fifth in yards and third in passer rating. But the Jets had the NFL's best pass defense. The Jets also led the NFL in rushing yardage, while the Chargers ranked 20th in rush defense.
2. Mark Sanchez needs to maintain his composure. This is as close as Sanchez will get to a homecoming game until the NFL returns to Los Angeles. The Long Beach, Calif., native and USC grad will return to Southern California at a time when he's playing his best. Sanchez has learned to come along for the ride rather than try to be the star. That transformation has paid substantial dividends for the Jets. Sanchez hasn't thrown an interception in his past three games, and the Jets have won them all. In becoming only the second rookie in NFL history to win a playoff game on the road, he threw three incomplete passes (Braylon Edwards dropped a touchdown) and had a 139.5 passer rating thanks to yards after the catch. Sanchez has integrated himself into the offense and isn't trying to run it anymore.
3. The game could hinge on how the Jets defend Antonio Gates. AFC East teams employ some mediocre tight ends. The Jets haven't really been forced to defend against many great ones. They faced Dallas Clark in Week 16. Clark had four receptions for 57 yards while working a short shift. In Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Jets mostly contained Tony Gonzalez, holding him to three catches for 32 yards. But they let Gonzalez make the game-winning touchdown catch on fourth-and-goal with 98 seconds left. Gates is Rivers' best target with 79 receptions for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. Vertical receiver Vincent Jackson has more yards and one more touchdown, but he'll be guarded by lockdown cornerback Darrelle Revis. The one to worry about will be Gates.