New York Jets (4-1) at Denver Broncos (2-3)
Sunday October 17, 2010
The Jets will look to continue their four-game winning streak and stay on top of the AFC East as they head west to Denver to take on Josh McDaniels's Broncos. This is a gut-check game for Denver for they could ill-afford to go 2-4. The Jets are coming off a short week after playing Monday, and they will get a bye week next week, so it's up to Rex Ryan to keep the team focused against one of the more dangerous passing attacks in the league.
When the Jets have the ball...
Since Ryan took over the head coaching job before last year, the mandate has always been to not let the offense get in the way of the defense by not turning the ball over. This year, the Jets have heeded the call, by not committing any turnovers in each of the last four games. If they do it again, they will tie the record for least turnovers after six games.
That's a remarkable turnaround, particularly for Mark Sanchez. A turnover-prone rookie a year ago, now he's been playing as well as almost any quarterback in the league. He takes care of the football but is willing to take some shots down the field with Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. This week, Champ Bailey will shadow somebody, but Sanchez has enough weapons where if he's patient and has time to throw, he should find somebody open. Look for Holmes to get much more involved this week, especially if Bailey guards Edwards.
Still, the main philosophy of this team is to run the ball first and foremost. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene have made the Jets forget about Thomas Jones, as they are the number one rushing offense in the NFL so far. LT looks like his old self, and Greene is a bulldozer in the middle. While the Broncos bottled up Chris Johnson when they faced him, the Jets' multifaceted running offense against the Broncos undermanned defense is a big advantage for the Jets. Denver will miss five defensive starters in this game, and that will take its toll primarily in stopping the run.
The Broncos' defense will have a lot of trouble against the Jets' attack. Denver has just five sacks all year and only three interceptions. The Jets come in at full strength offensively, and unless Sanchez regresses, it's hard to see the Broncos consistently keeping the Jets from moving the ball. The crowd could be a factor, but if the Jets can dominate at the line of scrimmage and take the crowd out of the game, this could be a big day.
When the Broncos have the ball...
The Jets have yet to live up to their defensive pedigree so far. They've shown flashes, but there have been too many blown coverages. The run defense has been stellar all season, but the Jets have struggled in third-and-long situations. That almost cost them the game last week. Kyle Orton is a smart quarterback who should be able to recognize the blitz packages and get the ball out quickly.
Containing Orton will be key for the Jets. His receivers are a collection of once highly touted prospects in Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Eddie Royal. Royal plays the slot, Gaffney is the possession receiver, and Lloyd, perhaps the NFL's biggest surprise this season, is the big play guy. Orton has thrown for at least 295 yards in every game this season, and it's no secret the Broncos will throw a lot.
The Jets will likely have to stop this high powered passing game without the full services of Darrelle Revis. Revis has been sore all week after playing last week on his strained hamstring. Don't expect the Jets to push him too hard, but if he could play, it would be a big help for this secondary. Kyle Wilson has been a little disappointing as a rookie, so Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman would have to take on bigger roles, as well as Wilson.
The other key is getting to Orton and disrupting that timing. The less the cornerbacks have to cover, the better, and Orton has been sacked 12 times this season, so it can be done. Calvin Pace looked good last week, and you bet the Jets will blitz a lot.
Denver's running game has been almost non-existent all year. Knowshon Moreno can be a playmaker, but he's been limited by a hamstring injury this year, so he won't be 100% even if he does play. As a team, Denver averages less than three yards-per-carry on the season, and the Jets are at the top of the league in run defense. There's no reason the Jets shouldn't be able to make the Broncos one-dimensional and tee off at Orton.
This is going to be a major test for this Jets' defense. For most of the game last week, they looked dominant. But on the road against a hot pass offense, communication needs to be improved, and the Jets need to show up for all four quarters. Orton has a lot of pressure on him with the running game likely a non-factor. The home crowd should help, but the Jets' defense seems to be getting close to putting it all together.
This game will come down to two things: how well Kyle Orton plays and how well the Jets protect the football. If the Jets don't shoot themselves in the foot, something they haven't really been doing this season, they should be able to move the ball very well. Red zone offense needs to be better, but the Broncos' defense isn't as strong as Minnesota's. For the Broncos to win, Orton either needs to have short fields a lot or to play out of his mind. Orton is good, but he's not a major playmaker. He'll need to sustain long drives and keep the Jets off balance to win. That doesn't seem particularly likely, at least to put up enough points to beat the potent Jets' offense.
Jets 27, Broncos 20