The New York Jets and Denver Broncos haven’t faced one another very often in recent years, but please believe there’s still a very strong sense of animosity for the ponies. Perhaps it’s more on the behalf of Jets’ fans, but it certainly does exist.
The last time the Jets and Broncos faced off, Denver shut out the Jets at Mile High Stadium with a score of 27-0. Jake Plummer was quarterback, and the Jets ran through three different ones.
That season was a dark one for New York with the QB carousel spiraling out of control. It was the last year of the Herman Edwards Ages, and what would ultimately usher in the football renaissance New York is experiencing now.
The last time the New York Jets were as competitive and dominant as they are now was 1998. Their road to the Super Bowl resulted in a dead-end at Mile High when the Broncos bounced back from a 10-0 halftime deficit.
Denver won the game 23-10. New York’s success since then has been inconsistent, having been only one field goal away from returning to the AFC Championship in 2004.
But it’s a new season with new faces. It seems every time these teams play against one another, the only consistency is Mike Shanahan.
The Broncos are currently sitting on top of their division, and are in hot pursuit of a playoff-berth. Their winning record can be credited mostly to being in a weak division, although they are fresh off an upset to the Oakland Raiders.
But that’s nothing to discredit the Broncos for—the Raiders beat the Jets, too. In fact, that game may have been the catalyst that kicked New York into high gear.
Regardless of Denver’s mediocrity on defense, and inconsistency with the run, they’re still a dangerous team. The Broncos are capable of winning games decisively, and in shootouts.
This is what the Jets need to avoid.
Neutralizing the Passing Game
Denver’s reputation has always revolved around the run game. It’s known as the only place where if a running back can’t succeed then he doesn’t belong in the NFL. Shanahan’s blocking schemes have allowed for the Broncos to insert almost anyone, and never have a drop off in production.
The 2008 season hasn’t been as kind to his system.
The way the league flipped upside-down this season, it should be no surprise that Denver’s bread and butter is with the passing game. Jay Cutler has been phenomenal, racking up yards by the chunks, and turning Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall into elite receivers.
This spells danger for the New York Jets and their 26th-ranked pass defense.
The Jets have allowed an average of 240 yards through the air in 2008, and show no signs of slowing that down. It’s one thing to face the league’s best quarterbacks and be exposed through the air—it’s a completely different thing when Tyler Thigpen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, JaMarcus Russell, and Matt Cassel have career days against them.
However, it’s not all gloom and doom. The Jets may allow a ridiculous amount of yards through the air, but they sit around the middle of the league, only giving up 15 touchdowns through the air—the majority of which came from Kurt Warner in Week Four.
Sunday won’t be about Denver attacking New York’s weaknesses, though. It’ll be about them trying to make something happen in the only area they’ve had success. It’s going to be New York’s job to limit that production.
The pressure will be on Darrelle Revis, Kerry Rhodes, Ty Law, Dwight Lowery, and Abram Elam. Take away the big play, and force some turnovers. Denver’s not running anywhere fast this weekend.
Kill the Clock, Kill the Spirit
When the Broncos beat the Jets 27-0 in 2005, their offense held the ball for over 42 minutes. New York is coming fresh off a game where they held the ball for over 40 minutes against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
It’s essential that New York do the same to Denver. They need to exhaust the defense, put points on the board, and keep Cutler and friends off the field.
The Broncos’ chances of shutting down the Jets’ offense are slim-to-none. But that can all change if the game turns into a shootout. New York can’t risk letting Denver put up points quickly and often, because it could make Brett Favre try to force passes that aren’t there.
The game needs to be about tempo and control. With the emergence of Dustin Keller, and the explosion of Thomas Jones, the Broncos’ defense could make life a lot easier for Favre and his weapons.
The New York Jets lead the league in keeping long drives, and every football fan knows how important that is. There aren’t many things more deflating than a 12-play, eight-minute drive that ends with points. And that’s exactly what New York will need to do against an explosive offense.
The Broncos won that game fairly. There were no bad calls, and no dirty plays. They just came right out after halftime and exploded on New York. They went on to win the Super Bowl, and the Jets went on to be their old selves, losing Vinny Testaverde in Week One of the season when they were picked as early favorites.
But halftime has been the story of the Jets for a long time. It’s been two different teams after the half in a few games this season. The Jets can jump out to early leads, stifle an offense, and dominate in the first-half—only to come back out in the second-half and let their opponents right back into the game.
When Denver comes to the Meadowlands on Sunday, Jets’ fans want to see that tradition snapped in half. Don’t allow any second-half adjustments to be effective.
For the sake of the fans that collapsed after the AFC Championship game, for the fans that are hesitant to crown the 2008 Jets as the real deal, New York must play another complete game against a team we still resent a decade later.