New York Jets (4-1) at Denver Broncos (2-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
PREDICTION: Jets 27-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: While the Jets are showing the ability to react to opponents' gameplans and move the ball on the ground or through the air, the Broncos will be without three defensive starters and two key backups. Denver's primary concern is Jets RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. If the Broncos don't improve their 4.4 yards per carry allowed, the Jets will control the clock and wear the depleted defense down. That's in part because the Broncos have become extremely pass-dependant offensively. They'd receive a huge boost if Jets RB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) is held out, although Denver could be without rookie WR Demaryius Thomas (head/neck).
FAST FACTS: The Jets have just one turnover. They seek to become the first team in NFL history to have one or no turnovers through the first six games of a season. ... Broncos QB Kyle Orton has passed for 300-plus yards in four consecutive games.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
When Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff found out in February the team had signed Dallas castoff Nick Folk, he wasn't all that enthused.
"Frankly, when I first heard about it," the candid Westhoff said Thursday, "it's not like I was jumping up and down. But when I watched him kick and watched him work out, you could see that he was fine. His technique was very good."
The problem was that Folk had altered his technique after offseason hip surgery before the 2009 campaign. Suddenly, he was struggling after making the Pro Bowl as a rookie after the 2007 season, and going 46-for-53 on field-goal attempts in 2007 and '08. In 2009 with the Cowboys, he connected on only 14 of 24 attempts and was released in December.
The Jets signed him mainly so they could let incumbent Jay Feely go as an unrestricted free agent. Because of the rules of the uncapped year, the Jets, a participant in the AFC title game, could only sign as many free agents as they lost, at least until late July. Letting Feely go enabled them to sign former Dolphin Jason Taylor in April.
But they needed Folk to come through, which he has done so far in 2010, hitting 12 of 14 field-goal tries, including a career-best 5-for-5 in a 29-20 win over Minnesota on Monday night. Folk, who tied his career-long with a 53-yarder in that game, was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts and could loom even larger Sunday in the rarefied air of Denver, which often gives a few yards of assistance to both kickers and punters.
When the Jets signed Folk, Westhoff said, they knew he "had that injury, that problem, that just drastically affected his technique. And you could just see he wasn't quite the same guy."
But Folk and Westhoff have been able to fix his mechanics, although he struggled a bit early in spring Organized Team Activities. Since then, Folk has been quite solid.
"Midway through OTAs," Folk said, "I figured out a rhythm with (long snapper) Tanner (Purdum) and (holder) Steve Weatherford. That rhythm brought a lot more confidence and everything became a lot smoother.
"I think (my accuracy) was pretty high through the second half of OTAs and mini-camp and I had a pretty good training camp," he added, "and I worked all summer with Steve and Tanner to keep it going."
But Folk said despite a game such as Monday's, he can't afford to be overconfident.
His confidence "is at the same spot it was," he said. "You've kind of got to keep an even keel and when it comes to confidence, you can't be overconfident because then you'll look past a certain kick and you'll dink one off the upright or you don't do everything you need to to prepare for the week."
An up-close view of two of the era's best cover cornerbacks playing on the same field may not materialize Sunday.
Darrelle Revis of the Jets has been battling lingering hamstring issues, and with a bye week looming, New York may choose the cautious route.
Too bad, too, since Champ Bailey wouldn't have minded getting an in-person glance at the player many feel has supplanted him as the NFL's top cornerback.
It's a mantle Bailey has supposedly given up before, to Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, maybe even Nate Clements when he got his big contract.
Bailey just keeps on keeping on. He may not be getting the same number of takeaways he had in his incredible 2005 season, when he was runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year with 10 interceptions.
But he also hasn't allowed a touchdown in two years. And matched one-on-one with the likes of Reggie Wayne and Anquan Boldin this year, Bailey has forced quarterbacks to choose other options in the passing game. The red-hot Boldin had one catch for eight yards last week with Bailey shadowing him.
Bailey noted Revis is among the players at his position that he pays attention to most, along with the Jets' Antonio Cromartie and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the Cardinals. Kansas City's Brandon Flowers and San Diego's Quentin Jammer have been part of others' conversations on the matter.
"I'm a fan of the game so I listen to a lot of people, but nothing bothers me," Bailey said about pundits dropping him as the league's best defensive back. "Obviously when everything's said and done, you still have to go and play. I laugh at a lot of it. It's funny. People want to talk about something. And (Revis) is great. He's playing just as good or better than anybody the last couple years -- but he's not doing anything right now, is he?"
Revis off the field did get what he wanted in the form of a lucrative contract extension.
The biggest storyline over the next several months in Denver figures to be whether Bailey gets the deal he's been seeking, as he plays out the final year of his contract.
Talks between the team last week were suddenly cut off, casting Bailey's future in doubt.
"I thought we found a way to make it work," Bailey said at the time. "My thing is, my optimism is slowly fading away about staying here."
--QB Mark Sanchez has no interceptions through five games, one season after throwing 20 picks. The last quarterback to have 20 or more interceptions one season, and then none through five games the next season, was then-Jet Vinny Testaverde in 2001.
--LB Calvin Pace (foot) was limited in practice Thursday. He said he expects to play Sunday. Coach Rex Ryan said Pace will make the trip, and then his playing status will be determined.
--CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) was limited in practice Thursday. Coach Rex Ryan said Revis will make the trip, and then his playing status will be determined. It's possible Revis might not start and only play a limited role.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets' leading rusher, has scored 20 touchdowns against Denver, the most of any Broncos' opponent. Of course, he did all that with his former team, San Diego.
--TE Dustin Keller, who had 17 receptions in his previous three games, had only two catches for 14 yards against Minnesota.
--RB Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) returned to practice for the first time since Oct. 6. Before working out, Moreno said he had tested the leg but hadn't gone full-go yet, so it wasn't possible to yet gauge his possible availability.
--S Kyle McCarthy and LBs Diyral Briggs and Kevin Alexander all are possible activations off the practice squad for Sunday's game, not only because of issues defensively but due to injuries to core special-teams players.
--RT Zane Beadles has been rotating with the starting group with usual No. 1 Ryan Harris, as Denver continues to try and find the right offensive line combination. Stanley Daniels and Russ Hochstein also have been sharing snaps at left guard.
--DE Kevin Vickerson was evaluated as a defensive tackle before Denver acquired him off waivers, projecting his height, arm length and size to a 3-4 defensive end. Now a starter, Vickerson was credited by coach Josh McDaniels for his ability to adjust from a slashing, one-gap system with which the player had become accustomed, to Denver's two-gap approach.
--CB Nate Jones will play a key role Sunday, whether he remains at nickel cornerback or plays some safety, too. The fact he did both during preseason games shouldn't be a shock to the system. "It can be mentally taxing," he said of his dual responsibilities. "But every week I go into a game, study what I got and I keep the left eye on one and the right eye on the other."
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