If you think there's a danger of complacency by the 4-1 Jets as they travel to Denver to meet the 2-3 Broncos, think again. Beating Minnesota and Brett Favre on Monday night football was satisfying, but it won't taste as sweet if the Jets don't prevail in Denver to reach their bye week with a 5-1 record to set them up for the rest of the season.
As much as the pundits might like to see coach Rex Ryan rest cornerback Darrelle Revis and his sore hamstring and maybe even sit linebacker Calvin Pace and his sore foot, they are two key cogs in a defense facing a Broncos offense that has passed more than 50 times in each of its past three games. The combination of pass rush and coverage will be tested by quarterback Kyle Orton, who has spread the ball around almost equally among wide receivers Eddie Royal (29 catches, 11.4 avg, 2 TDs), Brandon Lloyd (30, 19.6, 3 TDs) and Jabbar Gaffney (31, 10.5, 1 TD).
"If I was a coach, I'd be wanting them to play because Denver passes a lot," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "Revis is one of the best corners in the league and to take away one of their threats would be a huge plus for us."
By the same token, the players understand if Revis decides it's smarter to rest his hamstring and preserve his health for the long run or if Pace takes more plays off than he did against Minnesota to save wear and tear on his surgical foot. Cornerback Drew Coleman, who would start in Revis' spot if he can't go, handled himself well starting when Revis was out against Miami and Buffalo.
"I always go in expecting to start or play," Coleman said. "But Revis looked good at practice. If it is something where I start, we've been preparing for it. We've done it without Revis this season. If we use him in key situations, we're good with that. We're preparing for Revis to play and Revis not to play."
Pass-rushing more than 50 times a game at Denver's mile-high altitude will be a demanding task for the defensive line and for the secondary to cover that many pass patterns, which is another reason to keep Revis and Pace in the lineup. At the same time, the Jets' defense is designed to feast in pass-rush situations, although Orton gets the ball out quickly and is completing 66.2 percent of his passes. The Broncos have a total of only 105 yards rushing in their past three games.
"For us as D-linemen, it's a great opportunity to rush the passer," Ellis said. "We don't have to play much run. Yeah, we're licking our chops. Hopefully, it's one of those days where everybody can get off and get a lot of hits on the quarterback. If that's what they want to do, we've got to make them pay for it. We can't let them beat us that way. It's going to be an exciting game I hope. They're kind of like fast-break."
On Monday night, the Jets dominated Minnesota in the first half but gave up three second-half touchdown passes as the Vikings pulled within 22-20 before a Dwight Lowery interception return for a TD gave the Jets a 29-20 win. Ellis said the jets' defense is striving to dominate no matter who is in the lineup, but while they put on a good show in the Monday night showcase, it might say more if the Jets can win convincingly in Denver.
"If we want to be the best team in the league, this is a game we've got to win," Ellis said. "This is a send-a-message game. We're playing a team that's been struggling a little bit, and they pass the ball a lot. For us, these are teams we can't overlook. We have to play our game. We can't play to their level. We've got to play a notch above them and impose our will on them so we can get the win. That's what I mean by taking that next step to be that championship team. That's what champions do."