NFL: NY Jets at San Diego (8:35 PM ET, ESPN)

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NFL: NY Jets at San Diego (8:35 PM ET, ESPN)


2008-09-19

Two teams coming off of season defining losses will meet on Monday night when San Diego hosts New York. The Chargers, robbed of a win at Denver by QB Jay Cutler and an errant referee whistle, find themselves winless after two weeks and looking for answers. They'll try to find them at home when they host the Jets, who lost an equally painful game at home vs. New England. Instead of Favre & Co. taking the baton from the Pats, it appears the 5-time AFC East champs could be taking another lap. For the Jets, this is the first trip to San Diego since the playoff win of '04. Chargers' coach Norv Turner is 15-31 ATS at home off a loss. The Jets have played 11-7 ATS football on the road under Eric Mangini and are making just a second MNF appearance in his tenure.

The season is only two games old, but already the Chargers have received their fair share of bad luck. San Diego had its seven-game home winning streak snapped with a last-second, 26-24 defeat to Carolina in Week 1, and then found out their top defensive player, Shawne Merriman (NFL-best 39.5 sacks over the past three seasons), will miss the rest of the campaign after surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee. The stop unit was already thin after fellow linebacker Stephen Cooper, last year's leading tackler (108 stops), was suspended for the first four contests.

The good news is that while their defense will likely take a step backwards, the Bolts remain one of the top offensive teams in the league. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson looks to be back in top form after suffering a torn MCL during last year's playoffs, nearing the century mark against the Panthers but gaining just 26 yards on 10 attempts in a 39-38 loss at Denver. Quarterback Philip Rivers, once an afterthought in the offensive attack due to San Diego's rushing dominance, has become a weapon in his own right, throwing for 594 yards and six touchdowns against the Panthers and Broncos.

They'll be going up against a Jets team which added several key players on both sides of the ball this offseason in an attempt to bounce back from a brutal four-win campaign. First and foremost on the list was future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who threw for two scores against the Dolphins and then followed that up with 181 yards passing and one touchdown in a 19-10 loss to New England. Favre's impact will be felt not only in his ability to stay calm under pressure late in games, but also in the fact that now the Jets have the vertical, downfield passing game they lacked under Chad Pennington.

Without Cooper and Merriman, the Chargers might be more susceptible to giving up big chunks of yardage on the ground (they yielded 142 to Carolina). The Jets, who added left guard Alan Faneca and right tackle Damien Woody to their offensive line, should open big holes for Thomas Jones.

The additions of nose tackle Kris Jenkins and linebacker Calvin Pace should help them solidify a defense which has struggled to stop the run over the past several seasons.

PREDICTION

Both teams are coming off emotional divisional contests, but it may be asking too much of the Jets to travel cross-country and knock off one of the league's best home teams (San Diego is 15-2 in its last 17 at Qualcomm Stadium) with an 0-2 record. But if anyone can pull out a win, it's Favre, who is 5-0 in his career against the Bolts. With Tomlinson leading the way, Gang Green will likely fall just short.

SAN DIEGO 24, N.Y. JETS 21



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