New York Jets Host Rested San Diego Chargers
San Diego has covered just one of its last six meetings with the Jets.
The San Diego Chargers (4-1) have always been apt to sleepwalk through early-season games since Norv Turner arrived as head coach in 2007.
But we don’t think we have to worry about the Chargers being flat this weekend.
Indeed, San Diego’s trip to MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands for Sunday’s 1:00 p.m. (ET) kickoff against the host New York Jets (3-3) is anything but another ho-hum October game for the Bolts.
Instead, it’s about revenge.
The Chargers, now listed a 2-point favorites at most Las Vegas betting outlets, with a total at 43½ or 44 depending upon where one shops, have yet to forget about their bitter playoff loss at the hands of the Jets at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign.
To refresh memories, San Diego entered the playoffs that campaign as the AFC’s top seed after recording a 13-3 regular-season mark. After a first-round bye, the Bolts were rated as solid 8½-point favorites in the Division Round against the visiting Jets, who had won at Cincinnati by a 20-10 count in the previous week’s AFC Wild Card Round.
San Diego, however, was unable to put the Jets away when it had its chances that afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium. Up 7-0 at the half, the Chargers saw the Jets cut the lead to 7-3 in the third quarter. Failing to capitalize on a subsequent New York turnover early in the fourth quarter, San Diego quickly gave the ball right back when QB Philip Rivers was intercepted by safety Jim Leonhard, who returned the pick to the Bolts’ 16. From there, Mark Sanchez led the Jets into the end zone with a 2-yard TD toss to Justin Keller, putting the New Yorkers in front.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Jets sealed the game when Iowa rookie RB Shonn Greene busted the longest TD run in franchise history, a 53-yarder, to give Rex Ryan’s team an unassailable 17-7 lead. A late Rivers TD sneak cut the deficit to 17-14, but the Jets were able to run out the clock thanks to some tough running by vet Thomas Jones.
Some AFC West observers claim the Bolts went into a deep funk after the game, a bitter postseason exit reminiscent of a similar failure against Bill Belichick’s Patriots after the 2006 season that cost head coach Marty Schottenheimer his job. San Diego stumbled through much of 2010, missing the playoffs, and some insiders believe the Chargers have been waiting to exorcise those playoff demons for the past 21 months.
Sunday could be their opportunity.
Fundamentals suggest San Diego, well-rested after last week’s bye, has a good chance at gaining its pound of flesh. The combination of a solid offensive line and QB Rivers’ quick release should negate some of pass-rush pressure Ryan’s stop unit is likely to unleash. Sources say Rivers has been working closely over the past week with Turner on improved reads, looking to improve upon his uncharacteristic seven picks thus far.
Moreover, the Bolts are starting to get some good balance offensively with second-year ex-Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews (413 YR & 4.9 ypc) now providing a dangerous infantry diversion. New PK Nick Novak has also converted on all 11 of his field goal tries this season.
The week off also gave Rivers a chance to heal sore ribs and increased the likelihood that TE Antonio Gates will be healthier and more productive after battling plantar fascitis since the preseason.
Meanwhile, AFC East sources are not convinced that the Jets’ 24-6 Monday Night win over struggling Miami is indicative of a "buy" signal for Ryan’s team. The Jets blew hot-and-cold on offense all night and needed a franchise-record 100-yard interception return for a TD by DB Darrelle Revis to jump-start the team late in the first quarter.
As for QB Mark Sanchez, his efforts continue to be unconvincing, with his passing rating among the lowest for starting QBs in the league. Sources also indicate there remains some friction in the NY clubhouse after WR Santonio Holmes called out the offensive line following a recent three-game losing streak.
The win over Miami also might not be an indicator that the Jets’ defense is where Ryan wants it to be at this stage, either. Remember, New York had allowed 30 points or more in three straight games prior to the success vs. the impotent Dolphins on Monday night.