Game preview: Jets (1-3) @ Chargers (3-1)

The Jets look to get end the Chargers three-game winning streak by ending their three-game losing streak. The 2014 NFL season has not started the way the Jets envisioned back in training camp. With a 1-3 record, struggling offense, and their difficult schedule, the level of panic amongst Jets fans is high.

Last week, Rex Ryan said, “In the NFL it’s the equivalent of a 10-game losing streak when you lose one game.” So by Ryan’s standards, the Jets are on a 30-game losing streak.

Ryan knows how impactful losses are in the NFL and stresses that there is a high sense of urgency in the Jets locker room.

“We know obviously when you lose three games in a row, that sense of urgency better pick up and it has I think. So that’s pretty much what I have to say about it” said Ryan.

While the Jets have dropped three straight they are still only a game out of the AFC East and that is something that Ryan and company can hang their hats on.

“Yeah, (there is some consolation) I think when you look at us, well it’s easy for me to say ‘Well don’t look at the standings’. Yeah because we are at the bottom of it.” Said Ryan, “To me it is early and we just have to take care of business. We have to find ways to win or it’s not going to matter.”

Ryan is right about that. The Jets need to start winning and start winning soon.

While some may argue the Jets season is slipping away, the opposite can be said about their week five opponent, the San Diego Chargers. After dropping their opener to Arizona, the Chargers have ripped off three straight wins including one against the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks who are considered by many to be the top team in the NFL.

The Chargers are lead by quarterback Philip Rivers who has perhaps been the League MVP at the quarter mark of the season.

“It’s not shocking at all (that Rivers is considered an MVP candidate) to be perfectly honest.” Said Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy, “When I first took this job last year and made the comment that he (can) complete 70 percent of his passes last year which he came up just short of (completing) 69 (percent) and some change. He’s a special player. And he works extremely hard. He deserves all the credit in the world for his success. The way he works whether it is in the film room on the practice field, in the weight room (he’s) the leader of their football team…just a great guy to have as the leader of your organization.”

Ryan also has a high opinion of Rivers.

“Philip Rivers has always been a great quarterback.” Said Ryan, “When they had more wins than anyone in the AFC my first year here he was (and) he is a great quarterback.”

Suffice it to say, limiting Rivers’ efficiency will have a huge impact on whether or not the Jets win this game.

WHEN: Sunday, October 5th, @ 4:25 EST. (T.V.-CBS, Radio-ESPN)

WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

INJURY REPORT

JETS- OL Willie Colon (Knee) Probable, WR Eric Decker (Hamstring) Questionable,OL Breno Giacomini (Low Back) Probable, DL Damon Harrison (Ankle) Probable, RB Chris Johnson (Ankle) Probable

OL Nick Mangold (Shoulder) Probable, DB Dee Milliner (Quadricep) Probable, WR David Nelson (Ankle) Questionable and DB Calvin Pryor (Quadricep) Probable.

CHARGERS- LB Jerry Attaochu (Hamstring) Out, RB Ryan Mathews (Knee) Out, C Rich Ohrnberger (Back) Out, LB Manti Te’o (Foot) Out, LB Reggie Walker (Ankle) Out, CB Shareece Wright (Knee) Out, ILB Donald Butler (Knee) Probable, OLB Dwight Freeney (Knee) Questionable, TE Ladarius Green (Hamstring) Probable, TE David Johnson (Shoulder) Questionable, OLB Jarret Johnson (Shoulder) Probable, DT Corey Liguet (Concussion) Questionable, CB Jason Verrett (Hamstring) Probable and OLB Codarro Law (Ankle) Probable..

GAME KEYS

Get off the field on third down- This is imperative for the Jets. In last week’s game against the Lions, the Jets were consistently able to force the Lions into third down and long situations but they were not able to get off the field.

The Lions were converted six out of 14 third down attempts including three straight including a third and ten and a third and nine. Those were backbreakers.

“The good news is we are getting them to third down which is where you want them, and we are not finishing. So that’s big” Ryan said.

The Chargers are an excellent passing offense ranking fifth in the league averaging over 282 yards per game. The running game is a different story, the Chargers have the second worst running game in the league averaging a mere 69.5 yards per game.

The Jets who rank first in rush yards allowed per game, only giving up 63.3 should easily be able to stop the Chargers running game which should force San Diego into some third and long situations. The Jets need to capitalize on third and long situations and not give an elite quarterback like Philip Rivers extra chances to beat them.

No back breaking long drives- In their three losses this year the Jets have given up scoring drives of97 yards against Green Bay,80 yards against the Bears, and last weeks killer 90 yard drive to the Lions.

Ryan knows that in order to be a winning football team, the Jets must limit long drives.

“We have really given up some big drives.” Said Ryan, “During the course of the game we are doing some really good things, but we are not being a complete defense. And I am not saying we are always going to shut people out, but certainly that’s the goal. You try to eliminate your opponent’s success, period.”

Long drives like the three aforementioned ones, kill any semblance of momentum the Jets have during the course of the game, that and one other thing which leads me to my next key.

Pressure Rivers, but no big plays - The Jets have struggled with giving up big plays on defense this year.

“We are giving up too many big plays.” Said Ryan, “We have given up in some coverages where you think you have a guy doubled, and we give up and 80-yard touchdown, a 60-yard touchdown. We have to stop doing those things, obviously. When we do that, I believe that now we are going to start becoming a much better defense.”

This is in partly because of Ryan’s blitzing. Ryan can create chaos with his exotic blitzing packages, just take it from Rivers.

“That’s one thing about the Jets that they’re well known for is all the blitzes.” Said Rivers, “There’s guys that come from everywhere and they do a heck of a job of knowing their responsibilities and there is not always a guy open quick.”

Said Rivers, “I think that’s one thing that maybe separates the Jets from other teams that blitz is there is a lot of guys dropping out and doing different things and they never let you get a feel for them. So we definitely got our hands full this week facing this blitz package.”

Rivers is talking about the Jets when they had shut down corners like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. That is not the Jets situation now. Ryan’s blitzing scheme works best with top notch corners and while Ryan says Dee Milliner will play this week and Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls haven’t played bad they aren’t shut down corners.

Milliner was the corner beat on the 80-yard double move touchdown pass in week two against Green Bay and last week Allen bit on a Matthew Stafford pump fake leading to Jeremy Ross’ long touchdown.

So far Rivers has had decent numbers against blitzes going 11 for 19 and averaging over nine yards a completion with only one interception.

Rivers has big play threats in wide receivers Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen. Couple that with the fact that Rivers has an incredibly quick release can cause trouble for the Jets if they blitz.

If however, the Jets who lead the NFL with 14 sacks can successfully get to Rivers the pressure will be taken off the secondary and swing the game in favor of them.

X-FACTORS:

Geno Smith- With the Jets 1-3 start, and the offense struggling, there have been calls from fans to replace Smith with veteran backup Michael Vick. Smith has struggled with turnovers, throwing five interceptions and fumbling twice for a total of seven turnovers in four games. And Smith knows he has to be smarter in those situations.

“When it comes to turnovers, this has been an issue.” Said Smith, “Definitely, for us and for myself. And the key thing is that I’m always being mindful of the situation and knowing that if a guy’s coming free, maybe sometimes I’ve got to take a sack or something like that.

Smith also ranks 31st out of 33 eligible quarterbacks in total quarterback ranking (QBR) with a27.6 rating. The only two quarterbacks ranked behind Smith are fellow AFC east quarterback E.J. Manuel (32 nd) and Jacksonville’s Chad Henne (33rd) and both of these quarterbacks have been benched.

Smith according to Ryan will not be benched because Ryan believes Smith will turn it around.

“(He is the starter) Because, I believe in him. I believe that we’re going to get it done and believe that he’s going to be one of the main reasons we get it done and get turned.”

At times Smith has looked like a very capable quarterback. He looks more poised in the pocket, and he is on point with most of his reads. But his decision making can be confusing at times. It isn’t fair to say he has regressed.

The Chargers rank ninth in the NFL in total defense so it will be a yet another challenge for Smith. But if Smith avoid trying to do to much and play like he played against Oakland and the first half against the Packers the Jets have more than a good chance to win this game.

Running Game- One way to take the pressure off of Smith is to rely on the running game. The Jets are ranked second in the NFL averaging over 150 yards rushing per game.

At times it seems like offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg abandons the running game and at times relies heavily on Smith.

Take Sunday’s game against the Lions, on the Jets first drive, Chris Ivory ran the ball down the Lion’s throat for 51 yards on only nine carries. Ivory only received eight more carries the rest of the game.

It isn’t just Ivory who isn’t getting many carries. Chris Johnson who broke off a 35 yard touchdown run on Sunday, carries have decreased in every game partly due to his struggles.

As have Bilal Powell’s who didn’t receive any carries Sunday and has only received seven carries for the entire season.

Instead, Mornhinweg has relied on the arm of Smith. In the only game the Jets won, Smith attempted only 28 passes completing 23 of them for a completion percentage over 82 percent. In their three losses Smith has attempted 32, 43 and 33 passes, completing less than 55 percent of his passes.

The Chargers defense has allowed 97.2 yards per game over the first four games this season which ranks them ninth in the NFL. Last week, the Jets were able to successfully run the ball against Detroit who is ranked sixth in run defense.

If the Jets don’t abandon the running game, they should be able to move the ball which will hopefully for the Jets, lead to touchdowns.

Dee Milliner and secondary play- When asked if Milliner, who has missed the last two games with a quad injury will play against the Chargers, Ryan, without hesitation replied, “Yes.”

In limited action against the Packers, Milliner looked fantastic. However, once Ryan put Milliner on Jordy Nelson on a regular basis, Milliner’s who clearly wasn’t fully healthy struggled and was torched by Nelson on an 80 yard touchdown pass.

Milliner has been limited in practice and hasn’t played in two weeks. If he is used in a limited role, that’s one thing but if he is inserted directly into the starting lineup and asked to cover Eddie Royal or Keenan Allen for the entire game, the Jets may be in trouble.

Unlike Smith, Rivers’ total QBR is ranked second only behind Peyton Manning with an 82.5 rating. While some may not take stock in total QBR, Rivers has been playing like an MVP. He’s ranked sixth in the NFL in passing yards (1,155), fourth in touchdown passes with nine and has only thrown one interception.

If the secondary struggles, Rivers will capitalize and it will be a long day for the Green and White.

THE PICK: The Jets really need a win. Not just for standings purposes but for the team’s psyche as well. While Ryan says the players psyche is fine for now, he acknowledged that he has been involved with teams where that has been an issue.

“In most cases I have been on some teams where it is a huge concern.” Said Ryan, “but, in my heart I don’t believe that is this team. This team wants to win. They are not focused on all that type of stuff like woe is me. Getting them to practice hard, getting them to prepare to the utmost of their ability, that is not the issue here, that is not this team.”

One or two more losses in a row may change that. If the Jets want to have a chance to go into their bye week with a winning or .500 record, they have to win this game. They most likely aren’t going to beat the Broncos next week but their next four opponents after that, the Patriots, the Bills, the Chiefs, and the Steelers are beatable.

I think Ryan is right, the Jets want to be a winning team and want to turn it around and quiet all of the criticism. I think the Jets do have the sense of urgency required for a team in their position and will come out highly motivated and ready to play.

With that said, San Diego is clicking on all levels right now. Philip Rivers is playing arguably the best football of his career and with all of questions about the Jets secondary and quarterback play, I don’t know if the Jets will be able to keep up with the Chargers.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Jets came out strong and ended up with the win but as of now I think the Chargers have the edge.

Chargers win 31-17


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