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Breaking Down the Jets vs the Chargers

After an absolute drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots, the New York Jets look to pick up the pieces and head cross country to take on the reeling San Diego Chargers in a prime time Monday night matchup. The Chargers have been the recipient of two last second losses in the first two weeks and desperately need the game to re-solidify themselves as a power in the AFC. The Jets are going to have a chance to fix their image before a national audience and prove that the Patriots game was nothing more than a fluke in the hot weather.

Chargers Offense vs. Jets Defense

Simply put San Diego is an offensive juggernaut. In 19 drives this year, the Chargers have scored 10 times, 6 of which have been touchdowns. The offense is led by QB Phillip Rivers, who is coming into his own as the third QB success story of the 2004 NFL draft. Rivers has thrown for nearly 600 yards and is tied for the early league lead in touchdowns with 6. Rivers has multiple weapons in the passing game and is efficient as using all of his targets. The best receiver on the team is Tight End Antonio Gates. Gates is a tremendous threat in the passing game who may be the best player at that position in the NFL. Gatesí job is to draw a lot of the attention in coverage which allows the teams wideouts to go one on one most of the game. While the Chargers lack a true number 1 receiver they have two very good players in Chris Chambers, who the Jets are familiar with from his days as a Dolphin, and Vincent Jackson. Chambers is an athletic player that has issues from time to time catching the football, but is a big play threat when he shakes loose 20 yards down the field. Jackson has good hands and is a huge target, making him a tough threat to cover. San Diego also does an excellent job utilizing its backfield in the passing game as they have caught 12 passes for 204 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson is still arguably one of the top two running backs in the NFL, but it is possible that he is beginning to show chinks in the armor as he has a lot of wear on the tires and is nearing the age of 30. Tomlinson was hurt in the playoffs and now has a jammed toe. He has been a slow starter in the past and he may not be a huge factor this week. The Chargers line is a solid group with a mixture of old veterans and younger talent. They have done a good job of keeping Rivers upright, having only allowed 1 sack in each game, but have shown a tendency in the past to have games with big breakdowns against the rush.

The biggest area of concern for the Jets defense this week is how to contain Gates and the runners out of the backfield. The Jets defense has been hit hard by players such as Kevin Faulk and Anthony Fasano in the passing game. San Diego presents a major upgrade in talent at that same positions. The Jets defenders donít have the speed to cover anyone out of the backfield and teams are having great success lobbing passes over the defenders heads and hitting their players in stride. The tight ends have been a tough assignment and too often have the Jets seen safety Eric Smith either blow his coverage and cover the wrong player or fail to make a tackle. He has been a major disappointment and is likely in danger of losing his starting spot. Dwight Lowery and Darelle Revis are likely going to get little help covering the Chargers wideouts, but they should be up to the task. Revis more or less shut out Randy Moss for all but one play against New England. The Jets linebackers and safeties have to all be aware of the other players on the field and Kerry Rhodes is going to have to provide big support in coverage. The Jets need David Harris, who has had a very quiet start to his season, to make an impact play if the team wants to win. Besides the need to cutdown on penalties the team has to find a way to keep its players fresher this week. The Jets defense was totally worn down against the Dolphins and Patriots late in the game and the Chargers have proven to be nearly unstoppable in the second half. San Diego has only scored 3 first quarter points and 17 total first half points, while scoring 37 in the second half and were only stopped once in the 4th quarter by time running out on them. If the Jets either let them score early or completely dominate late its going to be a high score for the Chargers offense.

Chargers Defense vs. Jets Offense

The loss of Shawne Merriman has been devastating to the Chargers defense thus far. The Chargers have only managed 2 sacks this season despite being thrown on over 45 times a game. The Chargers linebackers have yet to register a sack and Shaun Phillips is not the same player without Merriman on the field. They have poor coverage skills and are having problems tackling players this season. Their front 3, which has been, along with the Patriots, the model 34 line has had a tough time this year. The Chargers are being run on at will giving up well over 5 yards a carry and NT Jammal Williams is beginning to look somewhat older as he recovers from injury. The secondary has talent with Antonio Cromartie, who was deadly in coverage last year, and Quentin Jammer, but they are being thrown on with a great level of success this season and are only better than the St Louis Rams in points and yards allowed through the air. The reserves are all below average and in general the Chargers need great play from the starters for them to succeed. Teams are taking advantage of big mismatches against opposing tight ends and are doing a great job throwing underneath the coverage of Cromartie and Jammer.

The Jets offense has yet to look like it has any flow to it thus far. Itís been a big play here with a big run there and a lot of missteps along the way. For the Jets to have a chance this week they need to eliminate the missteps and start playing fluid football for four quarters. The success of the team will begin with the offensive line this week. Thus far the unit has been inconsistent in both the running game as well as pass protection. While Brett Favre has not been under constant heat, the line has not looked anything more than average at best. If San Diego is allowed to overwhelm the Jets and begin to right their defensive woes up front the team will be at a major disadvantage. Favre is likely licking his chops at the chances he has this week to attack the secondary of the team. The team needs to utilize Chris Baker and Dustin Keller this week in the passing game. Much in the way teams take advantage of the Jets problems covering TEís the Jets have to take advantage of the Chargers same problems. Expect players like Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey to run a lot of short routes to set Favre up longer down the field. This is the kind of game where Favre can find multiple targets and keep the chains moving. The team needs Laveranues Coles to get over his problems with the team and Brad Smith has to find a way to get open this week. If Smith continues to be invisible he should be replaced by Keller splitting wide. The Jets would be wise to split the carries between Thomas Jones and Leon Washington to keep both fresh and to keep the Chargers off balance. Jones has been feast or famine in 2 games this year. He will have a drive with multiple carries of 8+yards and then follow it up with drives of doing nothing. His production could go up with less plays. Come the fourth quarter the Jets offense needs to put together time consuming drives to keep the San Diego offense off the field. 3 and outs at that point are completely unacceptable.

Special Teams

Ben Graham was finally cut from the team and its unknown if replacement punter Reggie Hodges will be any better. Hodges has been terrible whenever he has had an opportunity to make a team. The Jets punting game has been an issue since last year and they have to correct it this week. The last thing you can do for San Diego is award them with good field position. Darren Sproles has the ability to do an excellent job running back kickoffs and returned one for a TD last weekend. He isnít afraid to return them from deep in his own end zone and if Jay Feely is kicking line drives, he better get them out of the end zone each time. If he doesnít the Jets coverage cant fall asleep thinking Sproles is going is it on the ball.

Coaching

The Jets need to open things up if they want to win this game. Eric Mangini has coached very close to the vest despite the new weapons on offense. That type of coaching job wont win this game. Playing strictly for field goals and refusing to let the offense be run through the air will see the team fall behind late and not be able to recover. San Diego is too dangerous with that approach. While much of the Chargers problems are the result of a bad call or two, head coach Norv Turner once again has the team off to a bad start and could be in danger of losing the team if things donít improve soon. The Chargers have somewhat of a fragile psyche after years of playoff disappointments and may not believe in the coach.

Overall

This is a must win game for the Chargers who are in danger of quickly falling out of the AFC West picture with Denver currently clicking on all cylinders. Both the Jets and Chargers could come into the game with hangovers from last week. The Chargers were cheated out of a win by the officials while the Jets once again fell to the Patriots in their home opener. Whichever team shakes off the prior game first should have the advantage this week. For the Jets to win they are going to need to score close to 30 points to do it. Its unlikely that they can win a 17-13 type game against the Chargers.

In order for the Jets to win this game they need to come out firing, score early, and then weather the San Diego storm late in the game. If the Jets allow San Diego to come out and start scoring early on it is a game the Jets can not win. If the team tries to play ball control and a battle of field position itís a game they can not win. The team needs to be aggressive on both sides of the ball and force the Chargers into mistakes. Offensively the team has to use spread formations to take San Diego out of their base defenses and attack their weaknesses. Playing with 2 Wrs and 2 players in the backfield is playing right into the Chargers gameplan. Defensively the Jets players have to be aware of the penalties and they have to try to rattle Rivers if they can.

After last weeks poor performance the Jets have a chance to redeem themselves before a national audience and restore the faith in their fan base. This is the kind of game where the team can make a statement and take a leap ahead in the AFC playoff race with a quality win against a team that should compete for a playoff spot. A win here puts the Chargers into near elimination while a loss for the Jets would put a ton of pressure on them next week to beat the high powered Arizona Cardinals to stay in the thick of things and keep the year from spiraling out of control. If the Jets lose badly the media attention is going to shift from the ďgreatness of FavreĒ to stories about what a mistake it was for Favre to get stuck in a mess like New York. Mangini and his staff are going to get a lot of negative attention if they donít compete this week.

The Jets have had good success through the years against this club and will hope for a repeat of that on Monday night. It should be a tough game, but San Diego simply outclasses the Jets right now and its hard to picture them falling to 0-3 on their home field with the way the mistake prone Jets are currently playing. Chargers pull away late to get their first win of the season.

Jets 23 Chargers 31