Tomlinson needs the ball this week (Allsport)
The San Diego Chargers face off against the New York Jets at Qualcomm this Sunday at 1:05 PM PST. The Chargers are coming off a bye week, and will look to stay on a roll and extend their 1/2 game lead over Denver. The Chargers enter the game at 6-1, while the Jets are 2-5.
The Jets come off a game at the Meadowlands in a tale of two halves. In the first half the Jet offense and defense was firing on all cylinders and staked a 21-3 lead. In the third quarter the Jets gained 2 yards, and eventually lost the game to Cleveland, 24-21. Chad Pennington continues to throw the ball well as he completed 19 of 26 passes and enters his 4th game as a starter when he faces the Bolts this weekend. The Jets had 3 turnovers, which resulted in 10 Cleveland points. On the plus side, Santana Moss returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown.
The Chargers come off their bye week looking healthy. Almost everyone not on injured reserve will be back in the lineup. Rodney Harrison, on the other hand, lost his appeal, and will be suspended for this weekend’s matchup with the New York Jets. Vernon Fox and Keith Lyle will rotate in his place. Coach Marty Schottenheimer allowed his team to be off from Friday through Monday, and most of the team spent the time away from football entirely.
The offensive line will look to keep up its explosiveness in the run game against a porous Jets defense. They will also look to Drew Brees and his ability to exploit the middle of the field against what Jets fans refer to as their “Cover 0” defense, which is actually a cover-2, similar to what the Chargers play. This cover-2 might also explain why both teams have trouble with backs catching balls in open space. With the Jets still floundering towards the bottom of the league in defending the run, it would not be a surprise to see 8 men in the box on most plays, as they will look to make Brees be the one to beat them.
Chad Pennington has been on fire of late. He is getting all his receivers involved in the game. This could pose problems for the Chargers as they look to compensate for the loss of Harrison. The Chargers are also prone to getting beat by the big play, and the speedy Jets receivers, Moss and Laveranues Coles, will look to exploit that. Wayne Chrebet is still a standout receiver and completes the talented trio.
The Chargers practiced the fundamentals during their shortened week last week. Of concern is their lack of a big play on special teams. The Jets have the best special teams in the league with explosive threats on both the punt return and kickoff game. The Chargers thought they had the same combination entering the season. That has turned into a false statement and remains an enigma that must be fixed quickly. Special teams, while often overlooked, is just as important in a game as offense and defense. So far the Chargers have failed in all aspects of special teams and it could severely hurt them this week.
5 keys to a Charger Victory
1. LaDainian Tomlinson. He needs to see 25-30 touches or more. Tomlinson out of the backfield, Tomlinson running right, Tomlinson running left. The Jets have failed to hold a rushing attack to minimal yardage all year. Until they prove they can, get Tomlinson the ball.
2. Place the tight end out as a receiver. The Jets linebackers are a good bunch, but they are not good in pass coverage. Josh Norman or Stephen Alexander should be placed out there as he can exploit the middle of the field.
3. Special teams coverage. The Chargers cannot worry about how well they do in the return game. They must focus on stopping the two-headed beast of Santana Moss and Chad Morton.
4. Pressure Pennington. Pennington is completing close to 70% of his passes. He has great vision for the field. He is still young and pressuring him could force him to throw into situations he may not normally throw into.
5. Stop Curtis Martin. Martin has yet to really get going. He will at some point as he goes for his quest of another 1,000 yard rushing season. The Chargers cannot afford to let him bring his A-game, and must collapse on him early. If Martin does get going he will take pressure off the Jets defense that have been in turmoil all season, and recently have done a lot of finger pointing.