The inherent difficulty of playing two football games in a span of five days has been compounded by the upstart opponent that awaits the Jets high in the Rockies. The Denver Broncos have won three of their last four games, and while Tebowmania spreads throughout the country, the Broncos defense has half the Jets locker room buzzing.
"That's definitely their strong point," said QB Mark Sanchez. "They fly around the football, they're all very fast, and it's obvious on film. [S Brian] Dawkins, [CB Champ] Bailey, [DE Elvis] Dumervil and [LB Von] Miller have all been great players this year. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
Denver first-year head coach John Fox has put added emphasis on a defense that finished 2010 dead last in total yards allowed. With a balanced corps of savvy veterans and youth, the Broncos have already begun to rise among the defensive ranks. They currently stand fourth in the AFC in sacks.
"Their defense has kept them in many ballgames," said WR Santonio Holmes. "They have great rush ends, two corners that have been around the league for a while, and they're going to continue to fight and make plays."
With Dawkins in his 16th NFL season and Bailey in his 13th, Denver has two former All-Pros to lead a defense jump-started by the younger Dumervil and Miller. Dumervil led the league with 17 sacks in 2009. Miller is third among NFL linebackers with eight sacks this season.
"He's been all over the film," said Sanchez of the rookie Miller. "We'll have a good plan for him, whether he's rushing or covering. You'll see Dawkins sometimes blitzing, sometimes he's doubling somebody, and Bailey is a lockdown guy. We're going to have our hands full."
Although the Jets were singing the praises of their Thursday night opponent, the Broncos have shown a propensity to give up points, ranking 29th in scoring defense. It is a weakness the Green & White hope to exploit, especially as they look to rebound after Sunday's loss to the Patriots.
"We had a great first drive and we didn't get any points out of it," said Sanchez. "We need to take care of the football and then capitalize when we get in the red zone."
The red zone has been a strength for the Jets thus far, as they are fourth in the NFL with a 62.1 percent touchdown rate. Conversely, the Broncos are 22nd in red zone defense.
The short week has the Jets itching to get back onto the field. Thursday can't come soon enough.
"The good thing is the game is coming fast," said RB LaDainian Tomlinson. "You have no choice really but to put that game behind you and move on."
While the Jets would normally have more time to digest the loss, study the film and make corrections, this is no ordinary week. A walkthrough on Monday was followed by a no-pads practice today. The team will travel Wednesday and play Thursday to complete their whirlwind workweek.
As a nine-year veteran of the AFC West, Tomlinson has played his share of games in Denver. Head coach Rex Ryan has not definitively ruled Tomlinson out with his knee injury, but he said today that LT may be a gametime decision, if he makes the trip at all. Nonetheless, Tomlinson, as he did before last year's Denver trip, has imparted his knowledge of the Mile High City on his teammates.
"It's a tough place to play," he said. "The altitude is different, which makes it tough to get off to a fast start. Vice versa, that's what they love to do is jump out ahead of you and play from there."
Whatever the formula for taking down the Broncos, Sanchez is behind it.
"We want to get to Denver," he said, "get in and out of there, win the game, come home, and relax."