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Horse Tracks: Broncos not overlooking Jets' 'stout' defense, effective ground game

Logic might say the Denver Broncos run away with this game against the New York Jets. Experience would say that's bad logic. Even a 1-4 Jets team must not be discounted.

Donald Miralle

The Jets lost to the Chargers 31-0.

The Chargers lost to the Cardinals 18-17.

The Cardinals lost to the Broncos 41-20.

So by the transitive property of equality, the Broncos should beat the Jets 90-37.

Did I get that math right?

Thought so.

Luckily for all of Broncos Country (as well as statisticians everywhere and our country in general), that is not the math our team is using.

In fact, they seem to be keying in on this mathematical phenomenon: 1 = 17.

As in, the Jets' pass rush is No. 1 in the league with 17 sacks.

"Defensively, they're like fourth against the rush. Offensively, they're top five in rushing," head coach John Fox said. "They've got a great back and a quarterback that can make things happen with his feet and arm."

Listening to the guys in the locker room, you'd think the Broncos are playing a 4-1 Jets team that didn't get shut out last week rather than one boasting a 1-4 record with a quarterback who has thrown as many touchdowns in five games as our QB threw last Sunday.

You think about what you're going into, and you're going into a hornet's nest. So we're not taking this lightly at all.   -DeMarcus Ware, defensive end

But that's exactly how it should be.

Take. No. Team. For. Granted.

"You think about what are you going into, and you're going into a hornets nest," DeMarcus Ware said about this Jets team. "Guys come in with a little bit more edge to them, wanting to prove a point of who they are and the identity of their team. So we're not taking this lightly at all. We know how good the Jets can be, and we have to look at it as one of those opponents that's going to be a little feisty out there."

Yes, it would be absurd not to notice how much the Jets are struggling.

Sure the Broncos losing would be as surprising as Alabama losing to two SEC foes two weeks in a row (for you, Trogdoor!)

Yes, Geno Smith has connected with the opponents' DBs more often than his own receivers in the end zone.

And yes, the usually stingy Jets D has allowed 127 points so far, among the most in the AFC.

But the minute the Broncos assume an epic meltdown by their opponent wil be the same minute they get whacked upside the head with an "L."

Fox, Peyton Manning and every Bronco player understand the danger of underestimating an angry team that has enough talent to be on the right side of the win-loss column.

"Our guys look at the tape. They don't look at records," Fox said.

Hard to match Ryan's schemes

Also, did I mention Rex Ryan is the coach?

Yeah, that guy likes a little trickery.

Manning, whom Ryan called the NFL's best "offensive coordinator in the league; he just happens to play quarterback," knows Ryan's defense will bring unique looks that could stymie the Broncos offense.

"[Ryan] has always had good players and he's always had them ready to play. It's always been a challenge, and I can't tell you how much respect I have for his defenses," said the Broncos QB who enjoyed a record-setting game against the Cardinals last week. "There are other teams that try to do things like it, but there is nobody that does it quite like he does."

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase said although Ryan is working with young guys and more zone coverage this year, "he's not short on scheme, I know that."

"You don't know where anybody's going to be. You don't know what Rex is going to do," Gase said Thursday. "He's a little bit unpredictable; you don't know what he's going to do. At the end of the day you have to be able to play ball and adjust to whatever he throws at you. He's been very successful for a long period of time for a reason."

Aqib Talib, who faced Ryan's team twice a year while playing with the New England Patriots, knows exactly what the Broncos offense and defense is in for...and it's no cakewalk to a win.

"One thing they are going to do - a Rex Ryan team - they are going to come out physical," Talib said Wednesday, adding that the offensive and defensive lines will "try to set the tone of the game. Rex Ryan is going to have his guys up front ready to go."

Talib also believes this Jets team is desperate and will come out with no fear.

"They're going to come out looking for some type of spark - something to spark their team, something to spark their offense, and you just have to be on your keys," the cornerback said. "You just have to be even sharper."

And since the apparent strengths of the Jets D coincides with a weak Broncos running game, it's likely Manning will need that laser rocket arm to be on fire again with an ironclad O-line standing solid in front.

"It seems like every week we run into these teams where all I hear about is, ‘Oh, they're a top-five rush defense,' and I'm like, ‘Perfect, just what we need. One more top-five defense,'" Gase said before admitting the Jets' front seven demands attention. "They do a great job as far as stuffing the run ... but they do a good job of pass rushing and then they use their scheme to their advantage as well."

Manning is certainly paying attention.

"I think they're a stout defense, tough against the run, can cause you a lot of pass protection issues," he said before pointing out again that the Jets are No. 1 in sacks and force a lot of three-and-outs. "They're giving you lots of different looks and getting you in a lot of second-and-longs and third-and-longs."

Balance still sought

And though a passing attack is always in the game plan, Manning and Gase are not giving up on the run game.

"We're still looking for that balance every single week, and it's a good opportunity for Ronnie [Hillman]. There is no question he has a burst that is pretty unique when he gets the ball in his hands," Manning said, noting that the Broncos will need a running back "committee" to make its running game work. C.J. Anderson and rookie Juwan Thompson need to be ready. "I think we'll need the whole committee against these guys, and we're trying to get the run game going."

Speaking of the run game, the Broncos defenders anticipate having their hands full with Jets' running backs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson.

"They've got good design and they've got good backs. I think Ivory really runs hard, and they've go big offensive linemen," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "It's a challenge for us to make sure we don't let them do what they're most comfortable doing, which is pounding people."

Though our defensive backs are going to be gunning for INTs - which Smith has done six times in his first five games - Chris Harris, Jr., noted that the defense has to be committed to stopping the run.

They're going to try to establish the run on we've got to be on our toes, alert for everything. If we don't stop the run, it's going to be a long day.   -Chris Harris, Jr., cornerback

"They're going to try to establish the run on us, and they'll probably do some things that Seattle tried to do with the running quarterback, so we've just got to be on our toes, alert for everything," said Harris. "But if we don't stop the run, it's going to be a long day."

Whether Smith or backup quarterback Michael Vick plays, and whether the Jets run or throw, Terrance Knighton is confident in the Broncos approach.

"We're going to stick to our game plan," Knighton said, noting pressure on the quarterback is always on the table. "We keep things basic on defense, and we rely on our effort and our technique and how hard we play on defense to dictate the game. We don't try to change what we do for an opponent."

One thing the defense has been concentrating on this week is getting more turnovers in a game.

"Yeah we've been working on takeaways all week," Ware acknowledged, saying they'd been  practicing "tomahawking the ball" as guys are getting to the quarterback and trying to get the ball out from the running backs. "That's what defenses are all about ... able to get turnovers, get the offense a short field. We put one game together, but it's all about what have you done lately."

Horse Tracks:

Jets vs. Broncos: Trends To Track - Gang Green Nation
An upset by the Jets is not out of the question Sunday.

Broncos vs. Jets: Breaking Down Denver's Game Plan | Bleacher Report
Denver Broncos news, rumors, scores, schedules, predictions, picks against the spread, free agent updates, power rankings, mock drafts and more.

Denver Broncos coaching staff consistent with running backs approach - ESPN
With Montee Ball's injury, the Denver Broncos will divide carries among the remaining running backs on their depth chart.

Matthew Berry's Love-Hate list for fantasy football - Manning on verge of another record - ESPN
Peyton Manning is about to become the career leader in fantasy points, and reminds you that keeping it simple is the best way to win.

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Ronnie Hillman prepping for 'responsibility' as starter -
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Can 'Legion of Boom' halt streaking Cowboys? -
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San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' career transformation - ESPN
Quick-strike offenses have taken over the NFL -- and turned the San Diego QB into an MVP candidate.

Skeptical Football: DeMarco Murray Is Way Better At Running Than Alex Henery Is At Kicking | FiveThirtyEight
FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver's newly launched website at ESPN, uses statistical analysis — hard numbers — to tell compelling stories about politics, science, economics, lifestyle, and sports.

Goodell: NFL continues work on domestic violence -
Roger Goodell wrapped up the annual Fall League Meeting on Wednesday by discussing the league's commitment toward and relationship with social issues in the wake of a string of high-profile incidents.