Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cutler and Broncos look to upset red hot Jets

First off, happy Thanksgiving everyone! I had a good time with my family, eating some stuffing, turkey, casserole, and bread all drenched in as much gravy as I could pour.

Hopefully Kris Jenkins doesn't show up Sunday having gained 25 pounds on Thursday. If not, it's hard to see the Broncos being able to generate much of a running attack Sunday.

The Jets come in as 7.5 point favorites against the 6-5 Broncos. Denver is coming off a horrific 31-10 loss at home to the Oakland Raiders. Their defense has largely been a sieve for much of the year, as only six teams have allowed more yards than the Broncos, and only four teams have allowed more points.

Thomas Jones and Leon Washington should be primed for a field day. Both backs have been on fire lately, as the offensive line has been an immovable force for the last few weeks. Denver allows 4.8 yards-per-carry, so the two should be salivating.

As bad as Denver's run defense has been, their pass defense may even be worse. Champ Bailey has been hurt, as he is questionable for this game, but even if he's back, they should struggle. Denver allows quarterbacks to complete almost 70% of their passes, worst in the NFL, so the short passing game should once again be extremely effective. Teams haven't thrown deep on them a ton, but they haven't needed to.

That is good news for Brett Favre. The Jets have sliced and diced opponents with short passes to Laveranues Coles, Dustin Keller, and Jerricho Cotchery. Keller has added another dimension to this offense that a lot of defenses simply cannot deal with. No matter how you look at it, the Jets should be able to put up a lot of points, especially at home.

But there is a reason why the Broncos are 6-5. Part of it is the ineptitude of the AFC West, which they lead by two games with their weak defense. But the main reason they have been able to win games is their deep passing game. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal are one of the most prolific receiving tandems in the NFL, and Jay Cutler knows how to throw the ball down the field.

Marshall is clearly the number one option, and Darrelle Revis will surely match up with him. The Bronco star hasn't had a 100-yard game since tearing up the Chargers and Saints to start the year, and Revis will likely contain him. The matchup to watch is the rookie Royal against the veteran Ty Law. Royal is a very fluid athlete who could give the older Law some trouble, but you know that the former Patriot will not want to let a rookie beat him. He will play the rookie physically and try to take him out of his game.

Cutler against the Jets' pass defense will likely be the matchup that determines the game. It's hard to imagine rookie fullback Peyton Hillis, pressed into action because of injuries to the top four runningbacks, doing much against the Jets' dominant pass defense. Mike Shanahan will have Cutler air it out to Marshall, Royal, and tight end Tony Scheffler because if they are clicking, they may be the most dominant passing offense in the AFC.

But the Jets know this, too. They know that the Broncos will likely be one-dimensional, and it will be interesting to see how the Jets attack them defensively. One thing they will try to do is knock the ball loose. In four of Denver's losses, they've fumbled eight times, and the Jets are second in the NFL in forced fumbles (17).

In this game, there are two assumptions that can be made. First, the Jets should be able to put up points on the Broncos defense. Second, the Broncos won't be able to run the ball. Shanahan might abandon the run early and attack a secondary which at times has been vulnerable. If Denver can force Favre to throw a couple interceptions, they will be difficult because Denver's offense can be dangerous.

Both teams really want this game. Despite all the hype, the Jets are only one game ahead of the Patriots, so a loss combined with a Patriots win, and the Jets will be right in the thick of the playoff race. A win, and the Jets will be able to smell the playoffs.

Denver is two games clear of San Diego in their division, but the Chargers have so much talent that they can't be counted out just yet, especially the way Denver has proven they can lose to anybody. The AFC West title is their only ticket to the playoffs, so they can ill-afford to keep giving the Chargers chances.

Still, this is a game the Jets should be able to win. They are the better team on both sides of the football. Denver has the firepower to make it interesting, but hopefully the Jets can prove they can beat a one-dimensional football team and not let down after two big road wins.

Jets 38, Broncos 27

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