The Jets have played two consecutive excellent offensive games entering the Divisional round. Gang Green had its way with the Bengals twice, particularly in the trenches. In the Wild Card round, the offensive line helped the Jets run with such authority that play action left guys wide open because the Bengals sold out on the run.
Also helping matters was the pinpoint accuracy and sound decision making of Mark Sanchez. How good was he? I was exchanging e-mails last week with SNY's Michael Salfino. He had an observation.
In case you haven't noticed, only one pass from Sanchez did not go into or through the hands of a Jets receiver, the pass batted at the line, which was the proper read and would have been right on target to a wide-open Edwards. So, Sanchez did not make one bad read (except that goal-line pass to Cotchery, but I don't want to hurt my own argument) and could reasonably have been 15-for-15 for about 260 yards and two TDs. It's strange to say, but considering the weather and the expectations, it really is a historically good performance that's sort of given short shrift, IMO. How many plus 139 QB rating road games have there been in NFL history?
Think about that. Sanchez pretty much played a perfect game. I know you can go overboard with talking about appearances. However, there was a noticable difference in Sanchez's demeanor from the guy who looked overwhelmed in the middle of the regular season and beyond. He looked like the guy who was having fun the first three weeks. The game seemed to slow down for him. His USC experience served him well. Mark played on a big stage every week in college. He's comfortable playing in the spotlight. If Mark makes smart decisions and good throws like he did last week, the Jets can go far.
The Chargers will probably try to throw the kitchen sink at Sanchez on obvious passing downs. I feel good about the Jets' chances of keeping him clean even so. They have done a great job of that lately. The Chargers don't have a great pass rush. Shawne Merriman is back in their lineup after missing most of last season, but he only had 4 sacks. He's not playing at his preinjury level. Shaun Phillips has become the most important player for San Diego's pass rush. He had 7 sacks during the regular season. Phillips will line up a lot against D'Brickashaw Ferguson, which is certainly a good thing for the Jets.
San Diego does have a couple of decent cover corners, Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie will likely line up against Braylon Edwards. Cromartie is similar to Edwards. He's very athletic. He makes incredible plays. He also in many cases fails to do the routine things. I could see Braylon making a game changing play or two in this one. Jammer will probably line up against Jerricho Cotchery. It's a tough matchup. The Jets have made it a point to get it to Cotchery so expect some quick slants and receiver screens.
Dustin Keller might have a more difficult time this week than he did against the Bengals. San Diego has some good cover linebackers and safeties. Brandon Siler is a very good cover guy at linebacker. He splits snaps with Tim Dobbins, who isn't as productive, but Siler will probably be in for passing downs. Eric Weddle at safety is solid. Phillips is also pretty good.
There are no obvious edges for receivers, but there's potential there for another good passing game if Sanchez is as on target as he was last week.