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Jets at Chargers

Divisional Playoffs

1/17/10

The New York Jets head West to take on the San Diego Chargers in the final game this weekend, a game that holds some intrigue and promises to be the perfect ending to a weekend filled with exciting NFL action. The Chargers opened up as a 9 point choice but the Jet money has come in pushing this line down to -7 where it currently sits. The total is 42.

You have to love the job Rex Ryan has done with the Jets. The team actually has a swagger these days! Ryan, known for his defenses with the Ravens, came in and put his mark on this team in one short year. Very rare to see such a short turnaround and immediate impact.

As a result of having to start a rookie QB, the Jets have taken football down to the basics, and have proven that the basics can still work. Run the ball with some success, and stop the run on the other side of the ball. Do those things well, and you'll be in a position to win almost any game you play. That's the Jets in a nutshell. That's also the way football was played for decades, before West Coast offenses and other fancy schemes came about. It's smash mouth football the way it ought to be played.

But the simple approach also has it's drawbacks. It may put you in a position to win any game you play, but it also puts you in a position to lose any game you play. In other words, this approach lends itself to the game being in doubt midway through the 4th quarter. The approach basically gives both teams a shot to win it late. That is proven in the Jets results this year as the Jets were just a .500 team in the 14 meaningful games they played this tear, 7 up and 7 down.

You can handicap this game using common sense. No stats or formulas needed. Just look at the results of both teams. The Chargers are hot. They have won 11 straight. But if you look at their schedule, you'll only find a couple of blowout wins and those were against bad teams. Every other game was decided by a touchdown or less.

Likewise for the Jets. Two pretty good teams, the Patriots and Saints, were able to put some distance between themselves and the Jets on the scoreboard. For the Saints it was 24-10 and for the Pats it was 31-14. Every other loss was close. A 4 and a 5 point loss to the Dolphins. A 2 point loss to the Jags. A 3 point loss to the Falcons, and so on.

If you like the Jets this weekend, we wouldn't try to talk you out of it. The odds are, the Jets will likely be within striking distance late in the game and that's all you can ask for if you're backing the Jets +7. Do we think that's what's going to happen? No. We think the gig is up for the Jets. Read on.

At some point, no matter how hard the Jets try to make the Quarterback position a non factor, it has to become a factor. Look at all of your past Super Bowl champs and many of their opponents and you'll find some pretty good damn quarterbacks. It's not to say Sanchez isn't good. It's not to say Sanchez can't be great someday. But the Jets have handled the guy with kid gloves all year, as they should, and have taken him out of the equation as much as possible. Hand the ball off, make high precision completions. That's his job.

Bettors and fans have short memories. Let's not forget how many interceptions Sanchez has throw this year. He still makes rookie mistakes. He played, perhaps, his best game of the season last week against the Bengals. What are the chances that he follows that up with another one? Not great based on his track record this year.

Which QB in this game is capable of putting the team on his back? Phillip Rivers. He's done it all year. He's done it in past years. He has big game experience. He's beaten Peyton Manning in the playoffs. He's gone toe to toe with Tom Brady. He played an AFC Championship game in New England a couple of years ago in which he could hardly walk, an ACL injury, yet gritted his way through the game. He's played in 6 playoff games. The guy is a stone cold winner. He has as many wins over the last few years as Brady and Manning. The guy is one of the premier QB's in the game today.

The Jets stopped a one dimensional Bengals team despite giving up more rushing yards in that game than in any other game this year. Palmer had one weapon, Ochocinco. Rivas took care of him leaving Palmer with few options. Palmer obviously had some problems in last weeks game. Whether it was due to an injury isn't clear, but Palmer missed lots of throws. There were quite a few pass attempts from Palmer where he had the receiver but threw the ball high. I counted at least a half dozen where he was off the mark. Rivers won't miss those throws.

The Jets have no pass rush. They get to the Quarterback by blitzing. They blitz more than any other team in the NFL. 56% of the time I believe. That's great when it works. But the problem with blitzing is that it leaves open targets. Experienced QB's find those open targets. The Chargers are not one dimensional like the Bengals were. Rivers has plenty of options. Rivas can only cover one guy. The Jets won't have the answers for all of those options.

Yards per point numbers over the last 6 or 7 meaningful games show the Chargers with a 13 on offense and a 19 on defense making them +6. The Jets are a 17 on offense and 18.5 on defense for a +1.5. A 4.5 point edge for the Chargers with 3 points for the home field and they come up as a 7.5 favorite. No real edge there but it shows what you might expect, and offensive edge for the Chargers. No surprise there.

Also note that the Jets coverage on kick offs has been poor and they'll be up against one of the elite return men in football in Darren Sproles. Don't underestimate special teams and the role they play in games like this.

The Jets figure to play a respectable game. They don't figure to embarrass themselves. The game may very well be close at some point in the 4th quarter. But we look for the Chargers to be the team scoring late in the game putting this one out of reach. Perhaps it's a 3 to 7 point game in favor of the Chargers in the 4th quarter with the Chargers putting the exclamation point on the win with another score, making it anywhere from a 10 to a 14 point Charger win.

The Chargers simply have too many weapons here and have a huge edge at the most important position on the field when it comes to the NFL playoffs, Quarterback. The 13-3 team gets the win here over the team that was 7-7 in the meaningful regular season games they played this year. If that's the way it plays out, getting the cover isn't too far of a stretch. 2* Chargers -7

 

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