NEW YORK (AP) – The New York Jets are emerging from their bye refreshed and healthy. The Green Bay Packers appear to be anything but.
The Jets will try to capitalize on the injury-riddled Packers and extend their winning streak to six for the first time in 12 years at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday.
New York (5-1) entered its bye two weeks ago with a 24-20 win at Denver thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns by LaDainian Tomlinson. The victory was the club’s fifth in a row after opening the season with a 10-9 loss to Baltimore.
The Jets’ last six-game winning streak came at the end of the 1998 season when they finished with a franchise-best 12 wins.
Despite being tied with New England and Pittsburgh for the NFL’s best record, coach Rex Ryan feels there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“I don’t think we’re close on either side of the ball,” Ryan said when asked if the team has reached its ceiling.
Ryan is also hoping for sharper performances coming out of the bye.
“Once you get on that kind of roll, you want to just keep going,” Ryan said. “But for this football team, we’re better now because of the break. We’re fresher. We have no excuses. Let’s just go out and play.”
Outspoken cornerback Darrelle Revis is ready to go, declaring his bothersome left hamstring 100 percent healthy after rehabbing during the bye. The defense, ranked No. 1 last season, has clearly missed him playing at his usual shutdown level. The Jets are 22nd against the pass, and 12th overall – numbers Ryan is convinced will improve.
“Our objective is to lead the league in wins,” Ryan said. “When it’s all settled, I expect have the best defense in the league, like always.”
The unit will get a major test against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (4-3), one of the top passing offenses in the league. Rodgers completed 21 of 34 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 28-24 win over Minnesota last week.
“They’re impressive,” Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said. “Defensively, we’ve got to be on point.”
Green Bay, however, is nursing a slew of injuries with 12 players on injured reserve. Three defensive players were added this week, further depleting a unit already missing starting cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby.
“It’s tough. You’d like to have someone in there who you’re going into battle with each and every week and you become comfortable with,” said Matthews, who has battled a hamstring issue of his own. “But it seems like we’re switching people in and out, myself included. It’s tough, but it’s part of the game. It’s what we sign up for.”
So far, Rodgers and the offense have helped the Packers overcome the injuries to tie Chicago for the NFC North lead.
While Rodgers is turning in another strong season, he hasn’t been as efficient as when he threw a career-high 30 touchdowns with seven interceptions in 2009. This year, he has 12 TD passes and nine picks – four short of his career high.
New York’s offense has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 365.8 yards during the winning streak after being held to 176 by the Ravens. Much of that success has come behind a ground attack that ranks second in the league with 159.2 yards per game, with Tomlinson gaining a team-high 490 with five scores on 92 carries.
That has helped the Jets overcome Mark Sanchez’s recent struggles. The second-year quarterback has completed 51.4 percent of his passes and been intercepted twice in his last two games after throwing for 637 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception in his previous three contests.
“He’s shown flashes where he can make plays ever since I went to school with him,” said Matthews, Sanchez’s former teammate at Southern California. “He’s more than capable. I think he’s going to be a very good quarterback in this league for years to come.”
The Jets have won three in a row over the Packers, with the most recent matchup coming in Green Bay in December 2006.
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