The Chargers are 4-1 coming off a bye and will be put to a big test as they travel cross country to take on the New York Jets (3-3.) Beyond the “X’s” and “O’s”, there is a plethora of intriguing storylines heading into this match up. Jets outspoken head coach Rex Ryan and Norv Turner have been bantering back and forth all week. The Jets currently have two notable Ex-Chargers in running back LaDainian Tomlinson and cornerback Antonio Cromartie. LT will arguably go down as they greatest player in San Diego franchise history including Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow. These two teams are no strangers. The last time the Bolts made the playoffs was in 2009; they suffered a 17-14 home loss to the Jets. Charger fans experienced another disappointment against the Jets in the 2004 playoffs losing 20-17. San Diego is looking to prove they are amongst the elite in the AFC; they need a win to make that statement.
Stop the Run
The New York Jets running game has been very mediocre to start the 2011 campaign. However, that unit does have the potential to break out at any given moment. The difference between this year and last for the Jets is Shonn Grenne is now their starting running back. Well that experiment hasn’t worked out too well so they will be giving LT his first start of the season. LT would love to have a great performance against his old team. The only team in the NFL LT hasn’t scored a TD against is the San Diego Chargers. The Bolts run defense is a weakness of their defense. The unit ranks 17th overall giving up 113.6 yards per game. Nose tackle Antonio Garay will need to be a big factor in clogging the alleyways for the Jets backs. The Jets offense relies heavily on the run due to inconsistencies at the quarterback position. If the Bolts can keep the Jets around 120 rushing yards they should win.
Challenge Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez has been a very average quarterback since entering the NFL. I believe the Jets would’ve won the super bowl one of the last two years if they had slightly better quarterback play. Sanchez is consistently a liability to turn the ball over at any given point of the game. However, Sanchez has not thrown an interception is his past two contests. Against Miami a week ago, Sanchez ended up posting decent numbers but appeared to struggle all night. The Dolphins pass defense ranks 29th in the NFL and they were able to hold Sanchez to only 201 yards and one touchdown pass. The Bolts pass defense ranks 2nd in the league, therefore I believe Sanchez will struggle. Sanchez will throw at least one interception possibly as many as three to four. San Diego will make Sanchez beat them in order for the Jets to get a victory. Sanchez will not be able to succeed.
Feed Mathews the Rock
San Diego has added a new lethal element to their offense. The answer is the Tomlinson’s replacement, Ryan Mathews. The 2011 Jets run defense has been miserable; they are currently giving up 132 yards per game ranking 28th in the NFL. In 2010, the Jets had the third best-run defense in the NFL only giving up 90 yards per game. Mathews should get around 20 carries this week and expect him to put up solid numbers. I believe Mathews will rush for over 100 yards and a rushing touchdown. Mathews will also be a big factor in the receiving game out of the backfield. Due to Rivers early struggles and Mathews emergence as a star, expect Mathews role to continue to blossom throughout the season.
Other Notes: Antonio Gates looks to be a go for this game. This is great news for the Chargers and specifically for quarterback Philip Rivers. If Gates injured foot is not a factor, he will require double coverage almost every snap and will open up looks for the other San Diego wide receivers. It will be a big benefit for the Bolts to have future hall of famer, number 85, Antonio Gates lining up on offense.
Prediction: Chargers over the Jets 24-16