November into December 1998. That was the last time the Jets had a six game winning streak. If they win against the Broncos on Sunday, they can match that feat. The Jets are flying high with confidence right now riding a five game winning streak, with the last two wins coming over the Patriots and Titans both on the road. Now the Jets return home to the Meadowlands to play a 6-5 Denver team who has been anything but consistent this season.
The Jets running game has been really hitting it's stride the past few weeks. Thomas Jones, who is currently 5th in the NFL in rushing, should have a huge game against the Broncos on Sunday. Denver has one of the worst run defenses in the league, surrendering about 145 yards per game. The Jets offensive line has been one of the tops in the league during the Jets five game winning streak and I expect them to continue to get better. Jones and Leon Washington had a field day against a very good Titans defense last week, totaling 178 yards on the ground between the two of them. Jones looks like a man on a mission the past month or so. He has become the workhorse the Jets thought they were getting when they traded for him before the 2007 season. And Washington has become the Jets "X-Factor" out of the backfield. Whether he is running the ball, catching a pass in the flat or on special teams, he always seems to make something happen when he touches the ball. I can see each of them getting at least 75 rushing yards against the Broncos.
The passing game also continues to improve each week. Brett Favre has really adapted to the Jets offensive game plan. As much as he hates to say it, he really has managed games for the Jets. He has only thrown one interception the past three games, while throwing for 649 yards and 5 touchdowns. The offensive line has also kept Favre upright over the past 3 games, only giving up 5 sacks during that span. Allowing Brett time to throw the ball has given him the ability to find receivers and not force passes into double coverage. And one man who has benefited from this is the Jets rookie tight end Dustin Keller. He is becoming one of Favre's favorite receivers. Over the past three games he has 20 catches for 236 yards. He only has one touchdown during that span, but i'm sure those will come in the next few weeks.
With Keller becoming a bigger part of the offense, it has enabled Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles the ability to see more man coverage. Favre has been able to keep his top two receivers happy this season with Cotchery having 54 catches for 652 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Coles has 53 receptions for 613 yards and 6 touchdowns. And there is always a threat of Chansi Stuckey and Brad Smith being able to have a big catch here and there. The offense has really come together over the past month and there is really no telling how far they can go.
The Jets run defense should have another big game this week. The Broncos rushing offense are in the middle of the pack in the NFL, rushing for 110 yards per game. But at this point in the season, they are already on their 5th starting tailback. That tailback is Peyton Hillis. He ran for 74 yards against a very bad Raiders team last week. The Jets still boast the 3rd ranked rushing defense in the league, giving up about 78 yards per game. New York totally shut down the Titans running game last week, limiting them to a season low 45 yards rushing. The Jets still have not allowed a 100 yard rusher in any game this season, a big difference from last season. They are also one of the league leaders with 35 sacks on the season, already more then they had all of last year. Off season additions, Kris Jenkins and Calvin Pace have had big seasons so far. And Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas are quietly having strong seasons of their own for the Jets.
The one area the Broncos may have success is throwing the ball against the Jets. Jay Cutler is having a solid season for Denver and could have a field day against the Jets secondary. He already had 3,036 yards passing with 19 touchdowns. The Jets secondary has improved since the second half of the season started, but they have been following up a good performance with a bad one. This week against Denver they could be in line for a bad one. On average they have been giving up around 240 yards per game in the air. If that trend continues, then Cutler could have a huge game getting the ball to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. The top two Broncos receivers have already combined for almost 1600 yards receiving. Darrelle Revis, who may be having a pro bowl season, will most likely me matched up with Marshall, so I would not expect him to have a huge game. But Royal will be going against Ty Law, who is still getting into game shape after only two weeks of practice so far. That would mean that the need to keep their eyes on WR Brandon Stokley and TE Tony Scheffler. Scheffler could be tough to cover since the Jets star line backer David Harris is still out with a groin injury. If the safety's do not come up to help cover, these two could have huge days.
This is a very winnable game for the Jets, who for the most part have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way. Right now the Jets are soaring with confidence and I do not think they will beat themselves in this game. The Broncos have good corners so I would not expect Favre to be throwing deep too often. But I do not think he needs to anyway. As long as the Jets can establish the running game, which I think they will, then they should again be able to control the clock and take home their 6th straight win. Then they would keep pace with the Titans and keep their lead on the Patriots. I say the Jets take it 27-13 and get one game closer to the playoffs.