The Jets playoff hopes have been completely dashed and any hope of a winning season gone as the team marches on to another underwhelming opponent, which was flexed out of prime time well before the Jets were even knocked out of playoff contention. This is another team eliminated from contention that is ranked below average, but by most standards should match fairly evenly with the Jets. Neither team can muster much of any offense to go against their opponents above average defensive units.
Is it weird to be excited about a game where your team is eliminated? I want to see what Greg McElroy can do with a golden opportunity, even if I have tempered expectations of a third string quarterback. I want to see how the team responds and if they rally behind a new leader like what appeared to happen against Arizona. And you know what? Worse case scenario we lose and the message to Woody Johnson grows louder and louder. I don't see a downside in this game now that the worst is over.
Where Each Team Is
Both teams are playing for either pride or draft picks, depending on your outlook. The Jets have quietly risen to a top ten rushing offense believe it or not, but it simply hasn't been enough to win the Jets games
The Chargers supposedly have dead men coaching/Gm'ing in Norv Turner and A.J. Smith, and the team already has a losing record, but don't expect them to lay down for a Rex Ryan squad with a surprisingly good record against the Chargers. As bad a season as the Chargers have been having, this is a better team than any the Jets have faced in several weeks. Those of you rooting for draft picks just might get your wish.
Sister Site: Bolts From The Blue
Location: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.
Field: Open air, artificial turf.
Coverage: CBS. Sirius XM 93.
Weather: Windy with a mix of sun and clouds, high of 42.
Record: Chargers lead 19-12-1.
What happened last time? Jets won 27-21 in October 2011.
Who is favored? Jets by 2.5 points.
Offense: The Jets are 30th in overall offense, 28th in points, 30th in passing and 10th in rushing. That's right, the Jets are a top ten rushing offense by the numbers. San Diego is 28th in yards, 23rd in points, 22nd in passing and 27th in rushing.
Defense: The Jets are 20th in points allowed, 8th in overall yards allowed, 2nd against the pass, and 29th against the rush. San Diego is 16th in points allowed and 20th in passing yards allowed, 13th in total defense and 7th against the run. The top ranked Chargers running defense doesn't bode well for the Jets as that is their only offensive strength.
Attacking the Chargers
The Jets have relied on Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell to carry the offense and put up most of the teams production, but that might not work against the Chargers run defense. Greg McElroy will likely be forced to make at least a few plays through the air, and will not be able to win the game as a manager like he did against Arizona. McElroy will have to take a couple of shots and chances, and when he does we'll have something to compare and contrast with Mark Sanchez in terms of decision making.
By the mean numbers the Jets still have the 4th worst rush defense heading into the next to last game of the season. This isn't nearly the same concern it was last week, the Chargers have been absolutely awful on the ground and with any luck there won't be any repeats of the soul-crushing scoring run Chris Johnson broke off last week for almost the length of the football field.
Jets X-Factor: Greg McElroy
Who else? For an eliminated team, the Jets have a number of strengths that are completely obscured by the teams total ineptitude when it comes to moving the ball through the air. I'm not about to say that McElroy is the answer to the Jets eternal QB problem, but at this stage in the game it couldn't hurt to give the kid a chance and hope for a miracle. At this point I would take an incomplete flawed QB who doesn't turn over the ball with such frequency or consistency over someone with more experience. Unlike other Jets QB's it seems Sanchez's problems are as much mental and related to decision making as they are physical. It's possible that a less physical passer could be better than Sanchez by making less mental errors. Here's hoping.
Matchup to Watch: Antonio Cromartie v.s. Danario Alexander.
Cromartie is a former first round pick for the Chargers, and you have to believe that Philip rivers and company will test the limits of Cro's breakout season performance on Sunday. Malcolm Floyd and running back Ryan Matthews went down for the season last week, so expect Alexander, the most capable pure receiver left healthy, to take on the task of trying to catch against Cromartie. Alexander is having a relative breakout year himself, but has yet to manage anywhere near a full season in three years, let alone as a starter. Cromartie should handle Alexander easily, and Kyle Wilson matches up favorably against low-yield receiver Micheal Spurlock. Antonio Gates will likely push the Jets linebackers and safeties to the point of breaking. Ronnie Brown is probable to play and will test the limits of the Jets poor rush defense in another matchup to keep your eye on.
Bro's Bottom Line
For a soft game against a losing opponent, this will be another painful battle, the outcome of which is likely to be determined by whichever team makes the least mistakes. While both teams records say quite a bit about who they really are, both are stubborn defensive teams with bright spots in a down year. Like the vast majority of games played by the Jets this year, this is winnable, but it requires having a quarterback who does not single-handedly lose games after the defense carries him for the majority of 60 minutes. Although I have high hopes, I still do not expect the Jets offense to do much of anything for the remainder of the season, and I'm predicting a messy, power defense game on Sunday.