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Broncos at Jets Game Preview

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Let's be honest; last week was a humbling and discouraging experience for even the most faithful of New York Jets fans. In a few short weeks Gang Green has gone from narrowly losing against the Green Bay Packers to being absolutely toasted by the San Diego Chargers. The past couple of games have not been close by most measures, and New York simply looks outclassed against recent opponents.

An upset win against Super Bowl contenders you may have heard of known as the Denver Broncos would turn the entire NFL on its head in a year where dynasties appear to be crumbling and parity among teams and divisions is increasing. A loss would drop the Jets to 1-5 and 5 straight losses. Key players are questionable for the Jets, while the Broncos will only be missing running back Montee Ball.

Geno Smith has been given the nod as starter, although another meltdown in the fashion of last week might see Michael Vick coming off the bench in relief again. It seems increasingly likely Smith will continue to get the start until the schedule has softened and the coaches can figure out whether his struggles will be consistent against inferior or mediocre opponents. However, at any point in time in the near future, Smith is one bad play away from being benched.

Where Each Team Is

The Denver Broncos are having a pretty darn good run in early 2014. Only the Seattle Seahawks have defeated the Broncos so far, and not by a whole heck of a lot. A week after throttling the Arizona Cardinals at home by a score of 41-20, Denver travels to MetLife in a bid to extend their standing to 4-1.

The Jets have a record that is the complete inverse of Denver's. After a tough loss to the Detroit Lions, the Jets were downright embarrassed by Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Geno Smith simply could not deliver results without viable receiver depth behind the absent Eric Decker, and for that matter neither could Michael Vick. The Jets offense looked lethargic and out of its element no matter who was taking snaps. If there are many more games like last weeks for Gang Green, the Jets simply have no chance to contend this year. There needs to be a complete reversal in production on the field.

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Broncos vs Jets coverage

Sister Site: Mile High Report

Location: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.

Field: Open air, artificial turf.

Coverage: CBS. The favorite network of nursing homes and the comatose throughout America.

Weather: Partly sunny (or partly cloudy, depending on how you look at it I guess) with a high of 62 degrees F.

Record: Broncos lead the all-time series by 18-15-1.

What happened last time? The Broncos beat the Jets in a close contest by a score of 17-13 on November 17, 2011.

Who is favored? The Broncos are favored by 7.

Injuries

Jets

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. GAME STATUS
Bush, Josh S Quadriceps DNP DNP DNP Doubtful
Colon, Willie G Knee LP LP FP Probable
Cumberland, Jeff TE Illness - DNP FP Probable
Decker, Eric WR Hamstring LP LP LP Questionable
Giacomini, Breno T Low Back FP FP FP Probable
Harris, David LB Shoulder DNP DNP LP Questionable
Harrison, Damon DL Ankle FP FP FP Probable
Johnson, Chris RB Ankle FP FP FP Probable
Mangold, Nick C Shoulder LP LP FP Probable
Milliner, Dee CB Quadriceps LP FP FP Probable
Nelson, David WR Ankle DNP LP LP Questionable
Walls, Darrin CB Knee DNP LP LP Questionable

Broncos

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. GAME STATUS
Ball, Montee RB Groin DNP DNP DNP Out
Bruton Jr., David S Ankle FP FP FP Probable
Caldwell, Andre WR Knee FP FP FP Probable
Harris Jr., Chris CB Knee FP FP FP Probable
McCray, Lerentee LB Knee FP FP FP Probable
McManus, Brandon K Right groin FP FP FP Probable
Schofield, Michael OT Non-Injury DNP DNP FP Probable
Thompson, Juwan RB Knee DNP LP FP Probable

Rankings

Jets: With over a quarter of the 2014 NFL season in the bag, on offense the Jets are 30th in points scored, 27th in overall yards on average, 32nd in passing yards and 6th in rushing yards. Not only are the Jets currently considered the worst passing team in the NFL, they have fallen out of the top 5 rushing ranks as well. The Jets are simply not an effective passing offense, and until that changes these depressing trends are likely to continue.

On defense the Jets are 21st in points allowed, 6th in overall yards allowed, 15th in passing defense, and 6th in rushing defense. Just like on offense, the Jets have fallen steadily in the passing and scoring game. Also similar to the offense, New York no longer boasts a top-5 run defense after San Diego refused to abandon the run against the Jets even with the absence of Ryan Matthews. Simply put, the Jets are on a downward trend in terms of performance from top to bottom.

Broncos: On offense the Broncos are 4th in points scored, 6th in overall yards, 3rd in passing yards; and 29th in rushing yards. The Broncos haven't been a very good overall rushing team, mainly because with the elder Manning under center the Broncos don't even really need to run the football at all.

On defense the Broncos aren't quite as good, ranking 15th in points allowed with 21.8 points allowed on average, 14th in overall yards allowed; 22nd against the pass, and 7th against the run. The Broncos strongest suit on defense is against the Jets strongest suit on offense, so the result should be interesting. The Broncos are technically a below average secondary, so if Smith (or Vick) perform as poorly through the air as the Jets did against the Chargers, you can reasonably expect them to be bad passing for the rest of the season.

AP Pro Ranking has the Jets ranked 29th overall, and the Broncos are ranked 2nd.

Attacking the Broncos

The Jets are going to have to attack through the air, or they will lose. A balanced approach of run and pass might wear down the Broncos defense, but most teams are at best limited in their effectiveness on the ground against Denver. Although the game might not necessarily take the form of a shootout, no team can beat the Broncos with Manning under center when their own passing game is as inept and ineffective as the Jets has been.

I would assume Eric Decker will push himself back to be present against his old team. Hopefully this doesn't cause any setbacks with his hamstring. Jeremy Kerley is a great talent but putting him in the number one spot by choice or circumstance is asking too much of him. Smith (assuming he lasts against the Broncos) will need to utilize short passes, checkdowns, and passes out of the backfield. Combined with Smith's mobility and a formidable rushing attack, the Jets could attempt to beat the Broncos a few yards at a time.

First downs are the most crucial element of the matchup. Every first down wears down a talented but less-than-stellar defensive unit, and a short passing game with quick timed releases can complement the ground and pound to the point where the Broncos are forced to stack players in the box and things open up downfield for Decker or anyone else. Effective use of the tight ends Cumberland and Amaro could have a similar effect on the Broncos defense, but the Jets have yet to display this sort of competence in 2014.

Jets X-Factor

The Jets X-factors are their injured players who are uncertain for Sunday. Eric Decker and David Harris are among the most valuable and crucial players for the Jets on their respective units. Both are questionable. Darrin Walls might not be a great cornerback, or even a passable one on a better team, but it would be inopportune for the Jets to be missing him against the Broncos pass offense.

Dee Milliner seemed to have a decent game last week. When you don't hear a defensive backs name called very often during a game it's usually a pretty good sign. Milliner will need to step up and neutralize any one of the many viable threats the Broncos have at receiver, which leads us to:

Broncos to Watch

Peyton Manning threw for 479 yards and 4 touchdowns last week alone. Now you might say "But what about against a team with a better secondary Jeff? Arizona is the 2nd worst pass defense in the NFL and the Broncos were fresh off a bye week." Fair enough. Manning threw for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Seattle Seahawks two weeks prior. Manning has three times the number of touchdown passes Geno Smith does. As far as quarterbacks go, you're facing a living legend this week who is still great even after he has slowed down a little. At the age of 38, Peyton Manning holds a 109.0 QB rating so far this season.

The Broncos have 3 receivers with at least 20 receptions. The Jets have zero receivers with 20 receptions. The Broncos have 3 receivers with at least 200 yards receiving, and the Jets have 1. Emmanuel Sanders is Manning's favorite target, with 32 receptions this season. Tight end Julius Thomas leads the team with 7 touchdown catches. Demaryius Thomas is also a scoring threat with 3 receiving touchdowns. Wes Welker has quietly amassed 13 receptions for 118 yards. Ronnie Hillman will take the place of the injured Montee Ball, the Broncos top performing RB who is also a favorite target of Manning when he is coming out of the backfield.

Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have 4 and 3 full sacks, respectively. Rahim Moore leads the Broncos with 2 interceptions. Chris Harris also has a pick. Brandon Marshall (not the Chicago Bears receiver) leads the team in tackles. T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, and Nate Irving are all forces to be reckoned with who might give Geno Smith & friends serious problems on Sunday.

Bro's Bottom Line

I usually won't cut any team short. On any given Sunday any team in the NFL can upset the most fearsome of dynasty franchises. With that said, it is somewhere between difficult and impossible for me to see the Jets walking away with a victory on Sunday, even at home. The Broncos only loss on the season was an overtime struggle where the top-ranked Seahawks barely came out on top. Denver is looking to make another statement game and recapture the dominance they displayed over the past two seasons.

The Jets not only have to stop Manning, they have to execute on offense which they have largely been unable to do in 2014. Whether Decker plays or not, if the offense looks as sluggish as it has been this year the Jets will easily be outclassed by the Broncos. This could very easily be the Jets most challenging opponent on the entire schedule.

It's been a rough ride so far. Temper your expectations, but don't give up hope. Things should get much easier for Gang Green after the next couple of games. This is an uphill battle and a brutal schedule to boot, but sooner or later I expect the Jets to surprise us and the world and give the fans a much-needed victory.

Send your questions, comments, and hate mail via mr.zack@gmail.com or @JeffParksNY on Twitter.