The Denver Broncos (4-5) will try to take a bite out of the Big Apple when they host the New York Jets (5-4) on Thursday Night Football. The Broncos are coming into the game having won two in a row while the Jets lost to the New England Patriots on Sunday night. This game is extremely important in terms of playoff implications. Just one game separates the teams in the AFC West while the Jets are tied for second place in the AFC East and one game behind the Patriots. This game could also be important as far as the Wild Card spot goes. It doesn’t get much bigger than this in week 11. Kickoff is set for 6:20 pm MT.
Broncos: Which offense will show up this week? This is one of the most complex defenses to read because of their varying personnel groups and schemes. They will be prepared for the option so look for the Broncos to throw a few more wrinkles into their always evolving offense. The short to mid-range passing game will need to be on point because the Jets bring a heavy rushing attack in their ‘Bear defense’. It looks like Willis McGahee will be suiting up and he will have Lance Ball backing him up. The offensive line is once again critical to the team’s success. In the last two weeks, they’ve allowed just 2 sacks and they’re helping the rushing game average 270 yards per game. It would be helpful if the team started the game in a fast paced offense. The altitude is always a disadvantage for visiting teams, and it will make an especially big impact on an already tired Jets team.
Jets: The Broncos may have an advantage in this aspect of the game. The Jets are 24th in rushing and 20th in passing. They won’t have former Bronco killer LaDanian Tomlinson this week due to a sprained MCL. That puts even more pressure on Shonne Green who is leading the team in rushing, and Mark Sanchez. Although Sanchez his taken his team deep into the playoffs in the past two seasons, he’s had the support of a strong offensive line and strong running game behind him. This year Sanchez is completing just 56.6% of his passes. He has 14 TDs and 9 INTs on the year, and he’s the 7th most sack QB in the league right now. It seems like Sanchez is always good for a pick or two a game, and the Jets rely on their defense to get the turnovers back. Dustin Keller leads the team in receiving, but Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes are big touchdown threats. They have 10 TDs combined on the season.
Broncos: The Broncos game plan is to stop the run first, and then bring a heavy pass rush. Without a heavy pass rush, Sanchez will easily find his receivers down field. Burress, Holmes, and Keller are way too talented to be locked down for long periods of time. The combination of Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller bring a certain level of comfort. The Jets are +1 in the turnover department while the Broncos are -5. This defense has got to create some game changing plays just in case the offense can’t get many points on the board. The more possessions the better for the Broncos. Denver is 16th against the rush and 20th against the pass, but things are on the upswing faster than a New York minute.
Jets: Defense is what the team prides itself on. The reason why they reached the AFC Championship Game in twice in the last two years is because they have a defense that can bail a young quarterback out of trouble. The Jets will likely force Tebow to pass. He hasn’t been able to do it consistently so until he proves otherwise, the Jets will let him think that he has a receiver open until either Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie sweep in for a pick. The Jets are ranked third in interceptions (13), and their pass defense is ranked 8th. The Broncos actually have 6 more sacks than the Jets do, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t rush. They’ve just been dropping back into coverage more to cover passes coming from Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Tony Romo. Eric Smith leads the team in tackles with 55 and Revis leads them in INTs with 4.
Broncos: Each and every field goal MATTers. Matt Prater has missed too many especially from 40-49 yards out. If this game is decided on a field goal, Prater may need to pimp his resume. Britton Colquitt’s exquisite leg will be vital in the field position battle.
Jets: Joe McKnight is a deadly return man. He’s averaging 36.0 yards on 21 kick returns which includes one kick returned for a touchdown. Nick Folk is their kicker and he’s missed two field goals on the year. T.J. Conley is averaging 47.3 yards per punt and about half of his kicks have landed inside of the 20 or better.
Broncos: John Fox wants to go into a “mini bye week” with a win. He will give his team Saturday and Sunday completely off because the team doesn’t play again until the following Sunday. The coaching staff has done well adjusting their game plan to the strengths of their players, but for this game they must also adjust to the 46 defense and a Jets offense that has the potential to go off.
Jets: Rex Ryan puts together some sexy game plans. His team is fuming from their loss to division rival, New England, and he sees this as a “gimme” game. Thats where the Broncos can catch the Jets off guard.
Prediction: Broncos – 21 Jets – 17.