Riding a four-game win streak, the Jets will need to evoke the dominant pass defense of yesteryear when they travel to Denver on Sunday to face the Broncos and their high-flying offense (4:05 p.m., CBS).
The Jets (4-1) have allowed nine passing touchdowns this season — they gave up just eight in 2009 — and opposing quarterbacks are averaging 234.8 passing yards per game, nearly an 80-yard increase from last season.
Kyle Orton and top receiver Brandon Lloyd power Denver’s surprisingly efficient, second-ranked pass offense. But the Broncos (2-3) are hardly stampeding, entering this weekend’s matchup with the league’s worst running game and an injury-riddled defense.
Attack the Broncos’ secondary first
With Denver missing three defensive backs — safeties Brian Dawkins (knee) and Darcel McBath (ankle) and cornerback Andre’ Goodman (thigh) — Mark Sanchez could build his rapport with Santonio Holmes and regain the rhythm with Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller that Minnesota disrupted last week. The Broncos’ anemic pass rush will also be without linebacker Robert Ayers (leg), who’s tied for a team-high 1.5 sacks.
Denver’s perforated line
Although Orton is en route to the best season of his six-year career (141-213, 1,733 yds., 8 TD, 3 INT), his production is more a testament to his speedy receivers than to top-notch protection up front. Orton has been hit 25 times, including 12 sacks. With 12 sacks of their own, tied for seventh best in the NFL, the Jets’ defense shouldn’t find much resistance to their goal of rattling Orton.
Denver’s anemic running game — no back is averaging more than 2.9 yards per carry — should not threaten the Jets’ fourth-ranked rush defense. After holding Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson to 88 yards last Monday, Gang Green’s defensive line can focus on rushing the passer without the threat of a Broncos runner breaking free.
Let Cromartie shadow Lloyd
With Darrelle Revis’ status unknown due to a lingering hamstring injury, matching Antonio Cromartie with the speedy, less physical Lloyd should remove Orton’s favorite target from the game. Lloyd leads all NFL receivers with 589 yards this season — the second highest total of his eight-year journeyman career. Gang Green’s secondary can take a committee approach to covering Denver’s Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal.