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NFL Preview - Green Bay (4-3) at N.Y. Jets (5-1)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Call it Text Bowl 2010.
The two quarterbacks who succeeded a certain camera-toting No. 4 in Green Bay and New York, respectively, will get together this Sunday in the swamps of New Jersey to determine whose team has progressed further since would-be digital screen star Brett Favre made his dramatic exits.
Is it Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who've won 21-of-39 regular-season games and made a playoff appearance since the married father of two took his act to the East Coast?
Or is it Mark Sanchez and the Jets, who parlayed the one-year circus surrounding Favre into a two-win postseason thrill ride last January and have begun year No. 2 AJ (after Jenn Sterger) with five wins in six games?
Either way, it's clear the healing has firmly taken hold for the Jets in 2010.
Rodgers and Sanchez scored victories over the now drama-laden Minnesota Vikings -- Favre's current team -- within 13 days earlier this month, with the Jets getting 191 yards and no turnovers from their new signal-caller in a 29-20 win and the Packers receiving 313 yards and a touchdown from their replacement of Favre in a 23-20 triumph.
Their predecessor's snapshot from those games -- 30-for-63, 476 yards, four touchdowns, four interceptions.
Still, diplomacy reigns in the aftermath.
"It worked out, I'm sure, for Brett and for the Jets," New York coach Rex Ryan said in regards to Favre's departure and the drafting of Sanchez. "We got a guy that's going to be the quarterback here for the next 10 years, probably. And Brett Favre's a great player. Last year, those statistics, I kept saying, �That can't be right.� I mean, the guy's a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback."
Sanchez's progression this season has been due in large part to added offensive weaponry at his disposal, along with less of a tendency to make mistakes.
He threw no interceptions in the initial five games of 2010 after racking up 20 last season. His first two picks of this year came against Denver in Week 6, a game the Jets won, 24-20, with a late touchdown drive.
Rodgers, on the other hand, has ably continued his offense's swashbuckling ways, surpassing 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and beginning this year with 1,841 yards, 12 touchdowns and a 63.9 percent completion rate through seven games.
His ground game options were limited when 1,200-yard back Ryan Grant was lost for the season with an injury back in the season opener, but Rodgers has been buoyed by six receivers with at least 17 catches -- including veterans Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, who've combined for 54 receptions and eight touchdowns.
Green Bay enters the weekend tied atop the NFC North at 4-3, while the 5-1 Jets are knotted with New England for first in the AFC East.
"I would have liked to play better," Rodgers said after the Minnesota win. "It was a little more special because of where we are in the season, because it's our biggest rival, because it was a close game and the way it ended. It was a special night for us and me."
The Jets hold a 8-2 edge in their all-time series with the Packers, including wins in each of their last three meetings with Green Bay. New York was a 38-10 road winner when the teams last met, in 2006, and took a 42-17 decision when the clubs last faced off in East Rutherford, in 2002. The Packers last defeated the Jets in 1994, at Lambeau Field, and also beat them in Milwaukee in 1973.
Though they've never defeated the Jets on the road, the Packers have won in North Jersey as recently as 2007, when they defeated the Giants there.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is 0-1 against the Jets, while Ryan will be meeting both McCarthy and the Packers for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL
Favre-successor Rodgers has been consistently elite in matchups with AFC opposition, completing 60.9 percent of his 340 throws for 2,794 yards, 18 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 97.4 passer rating in 10 games. He's gone for at least 290 passing yards in three straight games and leads all NFL quarterbacks with three rushing touchdowns. In seven games this season, Rodgers has gone 150-for-235 for 1,841 yards, 12 touchdowns and an 89.0 rating. The yardage total is second in the NFC, while his touchdown clip is third. An emergency fill-in for the injured Grant, running back Brandon Jackson has emerged with 326 scrimmage yards in his last three games, an average of 108.7 per week. Among Rodgers' targets, Jennings has touchdowns in four of his last five games and averages 19.2 yards per catch against the AFC. Wide receiver James Jones went for 100-plus yards for the first time this season against Minnesota, while Driver caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in his last game against the Jets.
The Jets' defense has been both suffocating and maddening at the same time in 2010, allowing 16.8 points per game to rank fourth in the NFL even though the opposition passing output of 229 yards per week is good for just 22nd in the league. Put them together and it's 12th overall for a unit much-hyped by ex- Baltimore coordinator-turned-New York head coach Ryan. Rushing linebacker Calvin Pace has been hampered by a preseason foot injury and is nearing 100 percent, while cornerback Darrelle Revis -- who missed some time this year with a hamstring strain -- has proclaimed himself fully healthy after last week's bye. Run stopping has been the consistent hallmark for New York, with the Jets allowing just 3.48 yards per attempt on 155 carries. Lineman Shaun Ellis leads the team with 3 1/2 sacks, while cornerback and offseason acquisition Antonio Cromartie has picked off a team-best two passes while holding up his end opposite the gimpy Revis. Among the linebackers, veteran Jason Taylor seeks a fourth straight game with a sack against the Packers. His colleague, David Harris, leads the team with 40 tackles.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
While Rodgers has been prolific, fellow Favre-successor Sanchez has transformed into an effective game manager, having gone without an interception in five of six games after throwing 20 as a rookie last season. In the Jets' current five-game win streak, he's thrown for 1,026 yards, nine touchdowns and delivered a 90.4 passer rating. Behind Sanchez, the rushing offense is second in the league with an average of 159.2 yards per week. Resurgent and Canton-bound back LaDainian Tomlinson has five rush touchdowns in his last four games and has 38 games with two or more ground scores for his career, in which his teams have gone 36-2. He's 20 yards away from rushing for 13,000 in his career. Outside, wide receiver Braylon Edwards has four touchdown catches in his last five games and caught three passes for 107 yards and a score in one meeting with Green Bay, back in 2005. Counterpart Jerricho Cotchery had nine catches for 99 yards and a touchdown his last time around against the Packers, while tight end Dustin Keller is tied for second in the league at his position with five touchdowns catches.
The injury-racked Packers have been in the middle of the road with a 338.4 yards per game average allowed to the opposition, while giving up 20 or fewer points in four or seven games. On this week's walking wounded report, linebacker Brad Jones (shoulder) is out, linemen Ryan Pickett (ankle) and Cullen Jenkins (calf) are questionable and backfield mates Charles Woodson and Nick Collins are questionable as well with toe and knee problems, respectively. Others already on injured reserve for the season include linebacker Brady Poppinga, end Mike Neal, linebacker Nick Barnett, safeties Derrick Martin and Morgan Burnett and end Justin Harrell. Cornerback Al Harris remains on the physically unable to perform list with a knee issue. Though his status remains unclear, Woodson had an interception in his last game against the Jets and leads the NFL with 17 since 2008. Collins is third in that category with 14. Linebacker Clay Matthews has eight sacks in five career games against the AFC, while teammate Jarius Wynn notched the first of his career last week.
Rodgers emerges as a threat against an iffy pass defense, while lesser target James Jones might be a better play with Jennings and Driver likely to draw coverage from Revis and Cromartie. Packers rookie tight end Andrew Quarless is a sleeper selection. Tomlinson has reestablished himself as a weekly starter of late, as has Edwards with his recent production. Keller is climbing the ladder as a top-end tight end as well. Jets kicker Nick Folk has had a surprisingly good season, and the New York defense is always at least a passable bet for point production.
Judging by various power rankings and other milieu, people are starting to believe in the Jets. That said, the Packers present as dynamic an offensive package as any of the initial six opponents New York has faced and have a quarterback generally unswayed by big attention and marquee games. The bottom line may come down to exactly how healthy Revis is. If he's truly 100 percent combining with Cromartie on Driver and Jennings, Rodgers' effectiveness plummets just enough to push the needle New York�s way.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 21, Packers 20
10/28 14:55:00 ET
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