Denver is always one of the travel-page stops on an NFL team's road calendar. Let Trevor Pryce set the scene.
"There's 300 days of sunshine a year. You can also get all four seasons in one day," said Pryce, a Jets defensive lineman now but a Bronco for his first nine pro seasons. "There's a pizza joint downtown called Benny Blanco's Slice of the Bronx — best pizza in Denver. Mike Shanahan has a steakhouse there. He got fired as it was being built. And it is delicious. Elway's steakhouse has a fantastic crabcake."
And a fellow such as Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn can attest to the beauty of Colorado. But both Pryce and Lynn all the Jets know that whatever activities they got in during their free time Saturday has nothing to do with why they're here.
"It's still a business trip," said Lynn. "This trip's going to be about winning this football game."
Important business it is for the Jets. With a victory, they will go 5-1 heading into their bye week. That would be only the sixth such start in franchise history and the first since 2004. And as a historical aside that may mean nothing, 13 NFL teams since 1990 have entered their bye at 5-1. Their average season record was 12-4 and all lucky 13 made the playoffs.
But the Broncos stand in the Jets' way. Similar to the Monday night game, the Jets are facing a tough team that's started down on its luck. But unlike Minnesota, Denver at 2-3 is challenging the Jets in its home, another of the Rocky Mountains' star attractions, Invesco Field at Mile High. Another advantage is the thin air a mile up. The Broncos traditionally have had one of the most forbidding home fields.
And the orange-clad fanatics have a lot to whinny about with the league's second-ranked passing offense, triggered by quarterback Kyle Orton, on pace for more than 5,500 passing yards.
Throw It Every Snap? Fine
Yet the Jets have that swagger about them these days. They're always respectful but never fearful of their opponent. So regarding the Broncos' passing offense vs. the Jets' 23rd-ranked passing defense, head coach Rex Ryan said:
"They're averaging 50 passes a game, so they'll probably up that to 55 this game. They can get you in trouble, let's just put it that way. If you want to throw it every snap, that's fine. I think we'll make enough plays on the back end. We'll be able to get some pressure on the quarterback, and that's what we expect. They're not all of a sudden going to try to run the ball down our throat. I think they will try to be a little bit more balanced, but whatever they want to do is fine with us. They're going to have to snap it sooner or later and we'll see what happens."
One way the Jets can contain the damage done by Orton and wideouts Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney is to make them one-dimensional by shutting down Denver's running game, which is ranked last and has a featured back in New Jerseyan Knowshon Moreno who's averaging 2.9 yards per carry and is questionable with a hamstring injury.
Another is to apply some serious pressure to Orton. The Jets did just that against Brett Favre on Monday night, sacking him four times, hitting him numerous others and forcing him into an un-Favre-ian 14-for-34 accuracy night.
"I hit Brett as he threw a touchdown pass," Pryce said. "He looked in my eye, saw me coming. I literally hit his jaw. I'm turning around to get up and celebrate. Instead, 'Touchdown!' Are you kidding me?"
Pryce, Shaun Ellis and Jayson Taylor and the Jets' blitzers, not to mention the expected availability of LB Calvin Pace again and the possible participation by the hamstrung Darrelle Revis, have different ideas in mind today.
Ring Bling Makes the Trip
A third method is running the ball themselves. And in that regard, at least one Super Bowl ring has been brought along for the occasion.
"They're usually in a safe-deposit box, but I do wear them from time to time," said Lynn, who won two rings as a back on the 1997-98 Broncos championship teams. "I'm not a jewelry guy so I don't really feel comfortable wearing one. But I may wear one for this game."
We're pretty sure he already flashed it to good effect in front of LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene and the offensive linemen, who comprise the league's No. 1 rushing offense once again, at Saturday night's meetings.
Yet one more way to turn this game in the green-clad visitors' favor is to continue their extraordinary stinginess in giving the football to opponents. Mark Sanchez has thrown no interceptions through five games, joining Vinny Testaverde in 2001 as the only QBs in franchise history not to have thrown a pick in the first five games of a season.
And one more game without a turnover of any kind (including on special teams) will lift the Jets into the record books. They will become the first team in NFL history to commit no turnovers in five consecutive games.
A number of teams have reached four, including those Testaverde '01 Jets, Denver in '05 and Jacksonville in 1999, quarterbacked by none other than Sanchez's backup, Mark Brunell.
To show you the significance of such an achievement, Brunell was asked Friday what he recalled of that flawless quarter of a season.
"I don't even remember it, I honestly don't," he said. But he recalled the offensive strength of those Jaguars, who finished 14-2, and he knows the importance of no turnovers for Sanchez and the offense.
"Mark's making good decisions. When you have, through five games, zero interceptions, that's a credit not only to Mark but to everyone," Brunell said. "The receivers are running good routes, they're catching them, the offensive line is protecting, we're running the ball well."
"The Jets Are Going to Show Up"
Mix in the specialists. What does Nick Folk have for an encore to 5-for-5? Can Steve Weatherford launch a punt or three to rival Steve O'Neal's still-NFL-record 98-yarder here 41 years ago? Can Brad Smith bust his next kickoff-return touchdown?
The bottom line is that the Jets, even though they've lost five of their last six in the Mile High City, feel they're ready for what Denver can dish at them and are ready to visit some mayhem on the home side as well.
"We expect to win," Ryan said. "We know that's a tough place to play, they're going to be ready, the fans are all in orange and all that jazz. And here come the Jets. They're going to play the Jets. And that's the beauty of it. The Jets are going to show up. We come out of this 5-1 and go into our bye week, that's exactly where we'd like to be."
And as Lynn noted: "I can go back and enjoy the view and the scenery and the friends in the offseason."