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NFL Preview - San Diego (4-1) at N.Y. Jets (3-3)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Just when it looked like just a football game...enter Rex Ryan.
Rather than letting Sunday's MetLife Stadium showdown simply be billed as a rematch of a two-year-old AFC Divisional Round playoff between the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets, the home team's quotable head coach managed to lob a verbal grenade in the direction of his counterpart.
Asked on a media conference call what might have transpired had he been offered the San Diego job ahead of Norv Turner after interviewing there four years ago, Ryan said, "Well, I think I would have had a couple rings. I'm telling you, those teams were loaded."
And, voila...two franchises snubbed.
For the record, the Chargers have done just fine since hiring Turner to succeed Marty Schottenheimer prior to the 2009 campaign, winning three AFC West titles in four seasons -- albeit winding up ring-less each and every time. One of those ousting took place courtesy of New York and its 17-14 January win two winters ago.
As for the Jets, Ryan has gotten to the final four of the league's playoffs with them in both of his trips through the NFL gauntlet, finishing second in the AFC East in both seasons but managing four road wins in six playoff games before ultimately losing in conference title bouts at Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
Turner has won four playoff games in 14 seasons as an NFL coach.
Ryan quickly spun his comment as complimentary to Turner and the San Diego franchise, and actually placed a call to his colleague to ensure no hurt feelings. He claimed the chance at the Chargers job "opened some doors" in his career, which had spanned 12 seasons as an NFL assistant before the gig in New York.
Given his chance, Turner returned fire Wednesday.
"I hadn't seen his quote and I was a little bit surprised by the call," Turner said. "And then after I saw the quote -- I didn't have a chance to ask him this -- but I was wondering if he had those rings with the ones he's guaranteed the last couple of years."
These days, if either team looks closer to earning jewelry, it's the Chargers.
Turner & Co. have won three straight since a loss to New England in Week 2, scoring 20, 26 and 29 points while toppling Kansas City, Miami and Denver.
The Chargers were off for their annual bye last week and head to New Jersey with a half-game lead in the AFC West over the Oakland Raiders, whom they'll host in Week 10 and visit to close the season on Jan. 1.
In between the Jets and Raiders is a trip to Kansas City and a home date with the league's last unbeaten team, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
"At this point in any season it's gut-check time for any team," Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. "It gets you over the hump. This next four-to eight- game stretch, it becomes crucial to try to get wins. It can make or break you. We're playing against some very good teams.
"It's going to be a challenge, but our focus is on the Jets."
San Diego holds a 19-11-1 lead in the all-time regular-season series with the Jets, including a 48-29 victory when the teams met at Qualcomm Stadium in 2008. The Jets have lost two in a row to the Chargers in a non-playoff setting and last defeated San Diego during the regular season via a 34-28 decision on the road on Sept. 19, 2004.
New York has prevailed in each of the two postseason matchups between the teams, the most recent being the aforementioned 17-14 upset of the second- seeded Chargers in San Diego during the 2009 AFC Divisional Playoffs. The Jets also edged the Bolts in overtime by a 20-17 count during a 2004 AFC First-Round Playoff at Qualcomm Stadium, with Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding missing a 40- yard field goal attempt in the extra period that would have won the game.
Turner is 3-2 in his coaching career against the Jets, including a 2-0 mark while in charge of the Washington Redskins (1994-2000) and a loss in 2004 while then at the helm of the Oakland Raiders. Ryan's only previous head-to-head meeting with both the Chargers and Turners as a head coach took place in New York's 2009 playoff win.
WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL
San Diego, which leads the league in time of possession (35:17 per game), has won three of its past four trips to the Jets' home facility and seeks its fourth straight win in 2011. In his only regular-season meeting with New York, which took place in 2008, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 19-of-25 passes for 250 yards with three touchdowns, an interception and a 130.0 passer rating. Since 2010, Rivers leads the AFC with 6,246 passing yards and aims for a 60th career win as a starting quarterback (59-26). Running back Ryan Mathews had a career-best 125 rushing yards in the Chargers' Week 4 win at Denver and is averaging 101.3 yards per game on the ground in his past three contests. Gates had eight catches for 132 yards in his last game at New York and needs five catches to surpass Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow (541) for second-most in team history, behind only Charlie Joiner (586). Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had seven receptions for 111 yards against the Jets in the AFC Divisional Playoff loss in January of 2010.
Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis tied his career-high with two interceptions in the team's 24-6 win at Miami on Monday, including a 100-yard return for a touchdown. Selected No. 19 overall by the Chargers in the 2006 NFL Draft, cornerback Antonio Cromartie spent four seasons with San Diego (2006-09) before joining the Jets last year. Defensive end Mike DeVito leads the front line with 19 tackles and has a sack, while linebacker Bart Scott has 33 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks.
San Diego is 13th in the league in scoring with an average of 24 points per game, sixth in both total yards (416.2 ypg) and passing yards (293.4 ypg) and ninth in rushing (122.8 ypg). Defensively, the Jets are 11th in both points (21.8 ppg) and total yards allowed (332.8 ypg), fifth against the pass (200.8 ypg) and 28th against the rush (132.0 ypg).
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Dating back to January, the Jets seek a fifth consecutive win at home. At MetLife Stadium in 2011, quarterback Mark Sanchez has completed 57-of-93 passes for 718 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions for an 89.8 passer rating. Running back Shonn Greene had 128 rush yards on 23 attempts with a touchdown in the AFC Divisional Playoff at San Diego in 2010, while backfield mate LaDainian Tomlinson spent nine seasons (2001-09) with San Diego and rushed for 12,490 yards with 138 touchdowns over that span. Tomlinson needs one catch to become the fourth running back in NFL history with 600 receptions, joining Larry Centers (827), Marshall Faulk (767) and Keith Byars (610). Wide receiver Santonio Holmes aims for a third consecutive game with a touchdown, while tight end Dustin Keller has a touchdown catch in each of the Jets' last two meetings with San Diego (including the playoffs). Kick returner Joe McKnight leads the NFL with a 44.1-yard average.
Including the postseason, Chargers linebacker Shawn Phillips has 3 1/2 sacks in his past four games against the Jets. Third-year defensive end Vaughn Martin has 13 tackles to add the front line, while safety Eric Weddle has 28 tackles and two interceptions on the year.
New York offensively is 11th in scoring (24.2 points per game) and in the lower tier in all other categories, averaging 297.2 total yards (29th), 216.3 passing yards (23rd) and just 80.8 rushing yards (31st) per game. On defense, San Diego is 10th in points allowed (21.8 ppg), fourth in total defense (293.2 ypg), second in pass defense (179.6 ypg) and 17th against the run (113.6 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
Rivers and Jackson against Revis figures to be an interesting top-shelf matchup, especially after the Jets cornerback's two interceptions on Monday night against Miami.
Expect Tomlinson and Cromartie, who played their last games for the Chargers in the playoff loss to New York two seasons ago, to be a little motivated upon exiting the tunnel.
San Diego has struggled mightily on special teams over the years and will face a red-hot return man in New York's McKnight, who could make a difference in a close game.
Though they ended a three-game losing skid on Monday, no one was particularly impressed with the way the Jets played against Miami, with the offense recording consecutive three-and-outs on their first four drives. Getting things back on track against a more viable foe won't be easy, but leave it to the embattled Ryan to rally the troops back to his side for at least one week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 20, Chargers 17
10/20 18:44:36 ET