Friday, January 07, 2005

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers

Saturday, January 8, 2004.

Television: ABC, 8:00 ET / Commentators: Al Michaels, John Madden, and Michelle Tafoya

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers... San Diego
The Jets team that comes into Qualcomm on Saturday night hardly resembles the squad that started 2004 at 6-1. In a game that had playoff implications, the Jets were unable to put away a wholly mediocre St. Louis Rams football team. It's to New York's detriment that they have a short week to prepare for a game over 2000 miles from home. Both teams will look to establish their running games early on. It shouldn't be easy for either team to deal with the other's rush defense. San Diego will continue to utilize Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates as their offensive firepower. On the other hand, New York will look to ride Curtis Martin all the way to victory. I'm not convinced that Chad Pennington's shoulder is 100 percent. A lot of his passes versus the Rams were wobbly and fell short of their intended target. On paper, this looks like a fairly even matchup. When I compare them position by position, it breaks down like a pick 'em game. However, I like the intangibles that the Chargers have going for them. Playing a home playoff game for the first time in many years will be a big motivation for the Chargers. In addition, they come in as a confident team, having defeated Kansas City in Week 17. I'm selecting the Chargers to win by a final score of 24-14.

QB: Chad Pennington (New York Jets) vs. Drew Brees (San Diego Chargers)
Edge: Brees. Neither QB has much postseason experience. Pennington has won only a single playoff game, while Brees has never quarterbacked in the postseason. Both of these men have similar numbers when it comes to pass completion and yards per attempt. The deciding factor is Brees’ ability to avoid the big turnover. Brees has 27 TD passes compared to 7 interceptions. On the other hand, Pennington has a mediocre TD/INT radio of 15/9. In this battle of young quarterbacks, I’d give a slight advantage to Brees.

RB: Curtis Martin vs. LaDanian Tomlinson
Edge: Martin. If you asked me which RB I would like for the next ten years, I’d go with Tomlinson. However, Curtis Martin had a splendid 2004 regular season and won the league rushing title. While Tomlinson certainly is a top five running back in the NFL, Martin ran for over 1500 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. On the other hand, Tomlinson is the more explosive player and can break a big play at any time. Martin is more of the durable, grinding type of player. In addition, the Jets have better depth at this position with LaMont Jordan. Since both of these guys are on the 2005 Pro Bowl roster, it’s hard to go wrong with either.

FB: Jerald Sowell vs. Lorenzo Neal
Edge: Sowell. Neither of these guys will run the ball much in this game. Neal has never rushed the ball more than 20 times in a season, and Sowell ran only twice in 2004. I’d give Sowell the edge based on his greater versatility, evidenced by 43 receptions out of the backfield. Neal is more the prototypical blocking FB.

WR: Santana Moss and Justin McCareins vs. Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker
Edge: Moss and McCareins. As a unit, I like the Jets wide receivers. Moss is perhaps the most explosive playmaker on either of these teams. While he didn’t have an exceptional regular season, Moss can be counted on for a big reception or special teams return. However, Keenan McCardell is learning the San Diego system. McCardell has a lot of postseason experience from his days in Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. When you factor in veteran WR Wayne Chrebet, the Jets have the edge at the receiver position.

TE: Anthony Becht vs. Antonio Gates
Edge: Gates. There’s no question that San Diego has a big advantage at TE. Becht is certainly a competent TE and shouldn’t be discounted. However, Gates had an amazing season, earning a trip to Hawaii in February. Gates set the single season rookie TD record for tight ends with 13. With 81 pass receptions, Gates is Brees’ primary passing target. The success of San Diego’s offense hinges on the fortunes of Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates.

OL: Jets OL vs. Chargers OL
Edge: Even. Frankly, I can’t add much insight to the discussion of the Jets and Chargers offensive lines. I did enjoy reading that Chargers LT Roman Oben was once an intern for U.S. Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (OH). San Diego is much younger on the OL, starting two rookies this season. Jets center Kevin Mawae is definitely the best of the ten offensive linemen in this game, having earned a spot in this year’s Pro Bowl. Both of these teams have superb offensive lines that allow their QB’s ample time to look downfield. If you care to learn about the other OL in this game, feel free to check it out at one of many football related websites.

DL: Shaun Ellis, Dewayne Robinson, Jason Ferguson, and John Abraham vs. Jacques Cesaire, Jamal Williams, and Igor Olshansky
Edge: New York Jets. One way to gauge the DL is to look at the opponent’s yards per game average on the ground. New York gives up close to 100 yards per game rushing (97.9 to be exact), compared to 81.7 yards for San Diego. On the other hand, a healthy John Abraham could be a major factor in disrupting Brees in the pocket. The combined 20 sacks of Ellis and Abraham give the Jets a fighting chance to stop San Diego’s potent offense. San Diego gets much of their pass rush out of their linebacker corps, which I will discuss next.

LB: Victor Hobson, Sam Cowart, and Eric Barton vs. Ben Leber, Donnie Edwards, Randall Godfrey, and Steve Foley
Edge: San Diego. LB Steve Foley is a force in this 3-4 Charger defense. He led the team with 10 sacks this season, making up for the relatively low sack numbers of the front three. With the exception of Leber, this is a very experienced LB unit for San Diego. Chargers LB Donnie Edwards not only lead the team in tackles but in interceptions as well. The Jets most promising LB is not even in the starting lineup. Rookie LB Jonathan Vilma recorded a team high 75 tackle and had two QB sacks. The Chargers group of linebackers will be counted on big time to contain Curtis Martin.

Secondary: Donnie Abraham, David Barrett, Reggie Tongue, and Erik Coleman vs. Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence, Terrence Kiel, and Jerry Wilson
Edge: New York Jets. I’m not sure how I could give the edge to any starting secondary that includes Jerry Wilson. I watched that guy get beat so many times in Miami that we nicknamed him “Toast”. New York allows only 207 YPG passing while San Diego allows over 250.

Special Teams
Edge: Even. Neither Doug Brien nor Nick Kaeding is particularly great place kickers. Overall, they are pretty reliable even though both have missed some easy ones this season. San Diego did allow two kick returns to be scored for TD’s in their Week 2 meeting. San Diego has the edge at punter with Mike Scifres. His net average of 38 yards is better than that of Jets punter Toby Gowin. Scifres is known for his precision in getting kicks inside the twenty-yard line.

Coaching: Herman Edwards vs. Marty SchottenheimerEdge: Schottenheimer. I’ve given Marty heat in the past, much of it deserved. I’ve found that his teams usually underachieve and never reach the Super Bowl. However, someone deserves credit for the remarkable turnaround this year. Honestly, I can’t say that Edwards has had any more postseason success than Schottenheimer. He’s made the playoffs four times, but hasn’t reached past the AFC Championship game. At times this season, especially during the Baltimore Ravens game, Edwards has looked lost. Clock management may have lost them that Baltimore affair. Were Edwards to somehow beat the Chargers, I might change my mind.


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