Next Stop on Jets Flight Plan: San Diego

The hottest team in the NFL is the next mountain to climb

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    While most Jets fans are probably deep in a state of schadenfreudian joy after watching Tom Brady implode against the Ravens on Sunday afternoon, it's important to remember that the outcome of that game had other effects on their beloved football team.

    The Ravens win means that the chance of the Jets hosting the AFC Championship Game remains alive and, much more significantly, that they'll have to fight their way past the San Diego Chargers to make it a possibility.

    That's not going to be easy. There's no hotter team in the NFL right now than the Chargers. Norv Turner's gang is riding an 11-game winning streak, by far the longest run of any team vying for the Lombardi Trophy. They've got an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers, a deep and talented group of receivers and a field goal kicker who has made his last 20 field goal attempts. In other words, these ain't the Bengals.

    While many people will use those facts as a jumping off point for arguments about why the Jets would be better off not making the cross-country flight, there's still reason to keep hope alive. The Chargers don't have much of a running game, which should allow Rex Ryan and the defensive staff to spend a little extra time devising a way to keep up with a Chargers receiving corps that resembles a NBA frontline.

    Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd are both 6'5" and tight end Antonio Gates, who actually was a power forward in college, is the shrimp at 6'4". They're big, strong and too talented to rely solely on the inimitable Darrelle Revis. And, while everyone is craning their necks up, 5'5" Darren Sproles is very dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. The Jets are very good against the pass, but they haven't seen too many attacks like this one.

    The Chargers also don't have a world-beating defense. In fact, most observers would rank the Bengals defense that the Jets shredded on Saturday ahead of San Diego's, although that ignores the fact that the defense has been plenty good enough to keep the Chargers from losing a game since just after Columbus Day. They allow 4.5 yards per rush, something that should be exploitable by the tandem of Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones. It could also open up the play-action passes that Mark Sanchez used to kill the Bengals on Saturday. 

    On paper, it seems like a good matchup for the Jets. The Chargers' biggest strength on offense meets the Jets' biggest strength on defense, while San Diego's biggest defensive weakness plays right into the Jets' hands. Off of paper, though, the reality is that the Chargers were the best team in the entire league across the second half and seem primed for a long playoff run.

    We'll have much, much more on the game over the week to come but, for now, clear your schedules for 4:30 Sunday afternoon because the Jets have another date with destiny.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.