These two original AFLers have never met in the playoffs, but they did this past September 19 in a 34-28 Jets win.
"We definitely owe them one," says Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees.
San Diego would lose one more game after the New York meeting to start the season at 1-2. They then won 11 of their final 13 to finish with a 12-4 record – exactly reversing their mark of last year and winning their first AFC West title since 1994.
The Jets' pass defense will be tested by Brees – No. 3 in NFL passer rating (104.8) – who had the third lowest interception percentage (1.8) in the league.
The Jets, though, have a young, energetic defense that tied for the sixth-most takeaways in the league (33). It is led by rookie linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is the chief signal-caller for the defense. Returning to the lineup from a knee injury will be the team's best pass rusher, All-Star defensive end John Abraham, who had 9.5 sacks in 12 games before he was injured.
"I think in his mind now he's ready, he feels pretty confident," coach Herm Edwards said of Abraham.
On the ground, it will be a battle of Pro Bowl No. 1s. Jets running back Curtis Martin led the NFL in rushing (1,697 yards) and Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson topped the league in rushing TDs (17).
"He is a terrific player," coach Marty Schottenheimer said of Martin. "He has been that kind of player through his whole career. He is playing better now than he has. He has terrific running instincts. You don't get where he is without being awfully good."
Since Thanksgiving weekend, the unofficial kickoff to the NFL playoff race, the 12 clubs are a combined 46-26. That's a .639 winning clip.
Almost every one of the 12 is on some sort of winning streak, led by Pittsburgh at 14-0, San Diego at 9-1, Indianapolis and New England at 8-1, and Green Bay at 9-2.
The 2004 season was an offensive record-setter in thee important categories. There were more 100-yard rushing (179) and receiving (190) games, and 300-yard passing games (81) than in any season in history.
Jets at Chargers preview I
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