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The Stage Has Been Set for Jets-Chargers


After a Sunday of ultimate upsets and fantastic finishes, tonight it's the Jets' and the Chargers' turn at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

The Jets say they're ready for the white hot spotlight.

"I'm guessing it's going to be crazy," said cornerback Darrelle Revis. "It's a Monday night game. I know the Chargers are going to be ready. And we're going to come to play. It's a competition here, and that brings intensity and high-flying football. And we're ready to go."

That will be important because as NFL fans are well aware, the Chargers will quite likely to be ready to go as well. Their offense can correctly be described as high-flying, with QB Philip Rivers distributing to RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, TE Antonio Gates and WR Chris Chambers.

And while the Jets are respectful of that offense, they're feeling strongly about the defense they'll be sending out to try to slow that "O" down.

"They're loaded," said Kerry Rhodes, Revis' fellow DB. "They have so many weapons on that side of the ball. And it's a chance for us as a defense to take a challenge and make a stand on the big stage which is Monday night and naturally show the world we've got some good players over here."

The Jets' offense has a similar challenge on their hands. They haven't yet produced points and yards the way it was envisioned when Brett Favre, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Tony Richardson and Dustin Keller were added to the holdover skill players Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles.

But like Rhodes for the defense, Favre speaks respectfully of the Charger challenge but optimistically for the offense and the team.

"I didn't come here to lose," Favre said in the past week, looking back on the 19-10 home-opening loss to the Patriots. "Neither did Alan Faneca, Kris Jenkins or the guys who have been here before. You could see guys like Shaun Ellis' frustration at the end of the game. That's 10 years of frustration that he's had to go through. We're trying to change that, old and new. The path that we're on right now is the right path."

But what will that path lead the Jets to when they have the ball tonight? Many want to put the ball in Brett's hands, and it surely will be there a good amount. But head coach Eric Mangini and coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will continue to seek offensive balance, which is a key element to highly productive offenses around the NFL and also has been important in Favre's Green Bay ascendancy.

Consider that in the five seasons Favre threw his most passes as a pro — including three seasons when he led the league in attempts — the Packers had a combined 38-42 record (.475 winning percentage) and only one of those teams reached the playoffs.

Then in the five seasons he threw his fewest passes, the Pack was 53-27 (.663) and earned four postseason berths, and the one season without playoffs was Favre's first season in Green Bay and his second as a pro.

The records are similar for the five Packers teams that had the most rushing attempts with Favre at the controls and the five offenses that had the fewest rushing attempts.

Another reason to expect balance tonight: One proven way to keep a high-flying offense from soaring is to keep it off the field. And that requires an effective running game to go along with an effective passing game.

But on the other side of the offensive coin, the Jets are going up against a San Diego defense that reeled its way through the first two games, giving up nearly 300 passing yards a game, good for 31st in the league heading into Sunday's third week. Shawne Merriman turned the Lights Out on his season with knee surgery, and fellow pressure-applying LB Shaun Phillips has been ailing.

There certainly seems to be an opportunity for Favre, in his first prime time game as the Jets' QB, to throw the ball effectively.

So what will the Jets do offensively. You'll just have to come to "The Q" or sit in the comfy chair in front of your TV.

The third phase of the game that the Jets need to show improvement in is their special teams/field position. They'll be sending Jay Feely out as their placekicker again, but Ben Graham has been re-signed and is back as the punter tonight after Reggie Hodges, signed Tuesday, was downgraded to out for the game with a left thigh injury. And teams captain David Bowens told in the last few days, "We're going to go out there and set the tone."

One historical factoid bodes well for the Green & White, and that's that the road team in this rivalry has won the last five games. That includes the Jets' shocking 44-13 romp in 2002 and their twin wins in Southern California in the '04 season: In Week 2 and then in overtime in the AFC Wild Card Game.

Conversely, there was the theme of the week that the Chargers as desperate and dangerous, knowing 0-3 is almost always a death knell for a team's playoff aspirations. But Coles said such thoughts don't enter his perspective.

"It's Monday Night Football so it's always a big game," Coles said. "It has to do with having a great stage and having the opportunity to go out and play in front of millions of fans. And that's the most important thing, going out and having fun. Worrying about what they're having to do is not important to us right. We have to focus on our jobs."

And winning tonight is Job One for the Jets.

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