AFC East: Jets Back On Track, Or Are They?

A Win cures all ills... or at least most of them for the time being. The Jets defeat of a struggling Miami team was enough to get New York back on track, at least according to their coach. But is a win against the winless Dolphins really a cure-all?

The Jets have a short week to prepare for San Diego on Sunday, having hosted Miami on Monday night.

   However, perhaps that's a good thing for the Jets. A shorter week should mean fewer opportunities for players to snipe at one another in the media.

   Wide receiver Santonio Holmes called out the offensive line Thursday for the second time in 12 days, saying the Jets don't throw deep because the offensive line doesn't protect quarterback Mark Sanchez well enough to do so.

   "If you can't protect the quarterback for four or five seconds," said Holmes, one of five players named captains for the 2011 season by coach Rex Ryan in August, "then there's no point of dropping back seven yards to throw a football when he doesn't have enough time."

   "That's not being a leader," veteran right guard Brandon Moore told the next day. "It actually fragments the locker room. It's not productive."

   Of course, winning usually cures such problems, and beating the Chargers would send the Jets into their bye week off a victory. It won't be easy, although San Diego has some questions of its own. The Chargers, who are coming off their bye week, built their 4-1 record against teams that entered last Sunday with a cumulative record of 4-15, and lost by 14 points to New England, the only team they've played that has a winning record.

   The Jets will have to put some pressure on San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who is averaging 307.2 yards passing a game but has thrown seven interceptions and only six touchdowns for a San Diego offense that can be inconsistent despite its star power. Rivers also has lost two fumbles for a total of nine turnovers through five games.

   New York has been gashed on the ground by both Oakland and New England, so expect the Chargers to give the Jets a heavy diet of second-year back Ryan Mathews, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and seems to be coming into his own after a lackluster rookie season. Mathews was drafted in the first round in 2010 to take over for current Jet LaDainian Tomlinson, released by San Diego after the 2009 campaign.

   Rivers' top target once again is wideout Vincent Jackson, who has 23 receptions and three touchdown catches. Look for the Jets to once again put shutdown corner Darrelle Revis on Jackson, as they did in their upset playoff victory at San Diego in Jan. 2010, the two teams' previous meeting.


   BY THE NUMBERS: The Jets are 1-1 under Rex Ryan in games immediately preceding their bye week, and both have been down-to-the-wire finishes. They lost to Jacksonville in 2009 on a field goal on the final play of the game, and trailed Denver last year inside the two-minute warning yet rallied to win.

   TRENDING: Against New England, the Jets didn't have a completion longer than 22 yards, as they went with a more conservative passing attack. It proved to not be enough to keep pace with the Patriots' high-powered offense, so the Jets may change their strategy and take more downfield shots against San Diego, given the fact the Chargers can score in a hurry.

   --RB LaDainian Tomlinson hasn't played against the Chargers since San Diego released him after the 2009 season. Coincidentally, his last game as a Charger was the playoff loss to the Jets. Tomlinson has been used mostly on third downs and in the Jets' hurry-up offense.
   --DE Ropati Pitoitua, a key member of the Jets' defensive-line rotation, sat out the Miami game because of a knee injury suffered against New England. His status for the San Diego contest is uncertain.
   --CB Donald Strickland (concussion) sat out the Miami game but there's a good chance he will be able to return for Sunday's game against the Chargers.
   --LB Bart Scott is being subbed out more often this season than in the past two years. The Jets are trying to get younger, more athletic LBs such as Josh Mauga on the field more often. Scott is a hard-hitter and very tough, but sometimes has trouble playing in space.
   --CB Isaiah Trufant (hamstring), one of the Jets' top special-teams players, sat out the Miami game and may be out for several weeks. Trufant returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the opening-night win over Dallas.

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