Key Matchups for Week 9

The San Diego Chargers face the New York Jets at the Q tomorrow. Kickoff is 1 PM PST. Don't let the Jets 2-5 record confuse you; they still can be a dangerous team to those in the playoff hunt. Here is how the Chargers can win.

Exploit the Middle

You are probably thinking we mean for LaDainian Tomlinson to run the ball and run it more, and then run it again. Well that is a great philosophy when you have an outstanding back, as is Tomlinson. What we really want to see is Drew Brees pressure the Jets secondary early and often.

The Jets are preparing for the run. They have been all week. All the talk through the media has been how well the Chargers run, how it will be a challenge, how they must stop Tomlinson to win. While that still holds true, Cam Cameron must get the ball into his receivers' hands to setup the run. The Chargers have traditionally setup the pass by running. With the Jets keyed in and 8 men expected in the box, Brees would do well to throw in the seams of the secondary. The Jets have gotten better in their run defense over the last few weeks, but how could they not after being so atrocious to start the season.

The Jets deploy a cover-2, and Jets fans refer to it as the "cover-0". The Chargers run a similar defense, but they make it work a lot better. The idea is the Jets do not want to get hit for a bid play against and will give up the smaller stuff and concentrate on tackling. The safeties both go towards the sidelines and the linebackers drop in coverage, supporting the middle of the field. Brees must find the open seams in a defense that will have many. The Jets linebackers have looked slow. Morris Lewis (Mo), probable for this week with a sprained left ankle, had a great game last week but he has lost a step and asking him to cover the Chargers receivers will be a tough assignment. Marvin Jones has been a better run defender than pass defender, and the same holds true for Sam Cowart.

Tim Dwight has been running crossing patterns in the last few weeks, and getting open. Reche Caldwell has stepped up and is in the mix now as the third receiver. Curtis Conway continues to be a No. 1 target. Now when Brees drops back to pass he has confidence in his troops. With all the focus on stopping the deep route, Tomlinson will be open in the flat with room to run. The Jets are like the Chargers in this area. They do not cover running backs out of the backfield well. Tomlinson should get his touches, but 10-15 should come in the passing game, as the Jets will pursue heavy expecting run and the screen play should be there all day long.

Ideally it rests on the coaching staff to continue to change things up throughout the game. The Jets have been accused of not being able to change gameplans while a game is in session. The Chargers do not have that problem, and the more off-balance the Jets are, the better the Bolts chances of winning.

"You know it's coming. There's no ifs, ands or buts. You don't have to worry about whether they're going to pass the ball 30 times. They're going to put it straight in your face and see what you're going to do with it," defensive end John Abraham said.

Well maybe they do have to worry. Are you listening Cam?

Pass Coverage

The Chargers have their own worries in the passing defense. Chad Pennington has been on fire distributing the ball to his small but effective receivers. Pennington is completing close to 70% of his passes and has found receivers all over the field. Laveranues Coles stated, "Chad makes the difference. He gets the ball to everybody."

The actual number is a NFL-best 69.5 completion percentage and has been even better since becoming the starter three games ago, hitting 77.4 percent, the highest completion percentage for a quarterback in his first three starts since 1970. He also has thrown for five touchdowns with two interceptions and compiled a 111.6 passer rating in those three starts.

Pennington has also been fiery in the huddle and on the sidelines. He is showing emotion during a game, something the rest of the team has not shown nearly enough. His job is to get the ball to his receivers and show passion and inspiration.

Wayne Chrebet is more of a possession receiver and is always a factor on third down. He is steady, and runs precise routes to get open. Coles and Santana Moss pose different sorts of problems for the Chargers secondary. With Rodney Harrison out, Vernon Fox and Keith Lyle will be targeted in the deep passing game. They cannot let these speedy receivers get behind them. Coles and Moss both have breakaway speed and Coles in particular has become a favorite target of Pennington.

Moss and Coles must be bumped at the line to throw off their timing. Quentin Jammer should have a huge role in the action this week. He cannot commit penalties as he did in Oakland. Jammer, a rookie, has to display the physical aspect of his game this week and stay with his coverage. Ryan McNeil and Alex Molden will also see action. They too must play smart and avoid making mistakes.

With pressure up front on Pennington the secondary cant take any chances or they may get burned. They must be patient in making mistakes come to them and not trying to force the play.

Junior Seau and Marcellus Wiley return to action this week and are a huge boon to stopping the passing game. Seau is a master blitzer and Wiley is always in the backfield. These two are just as important as the coverage in stopping the pass. A total team effort on defense will be needed to thwart the enemy.

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