Thursday Night NFL Football: New York Jets at Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos (4-5) play host to the New York Jets (5-4) for Thursday Night NFL Football, in what will be an interesting match-up between two teams still very much in control of their destinies moving into the second half of the season.

Although the New York Jets didn’t help themselves out last weekend, losing a tough game against AFC East foes New England and dropping the season series to the Patriots (meaning they’ll have to win the division outright, as a tiebreaker would go to NE), sitting just one game out of first place with an opportunity to improve on a sloppy performance makes this a critical match-up for head coach Rex Ryan’s Jets. Mistakes obliterated the hopes of the Jets on Sunday, and there’s no doubting that in tonight’s game one of the main focal points for improvement will be to avoid shooting themselves in the foot against an opportunistic Denver team that has learned to win in scrappy, ugly games. Allowing 2 interceptions, 5 sacks, a missed 24-yard field goal and perhaps the worst time-out call this season by Mark Sanchez (who pretty much gave the ball over to Tom Brady to score a TD before half), the Jets simply had no chance to overcome their mistakes against Tom Brady and the veteran Pats, but against a young Tim Tebow tonight New York will at least have the benefit of not having to oppose a great quarterback, or almost any quarterback at all. It’s a big change of pace for the Jets going from a pass-first attack to a run-first approach (almost a 3:1 run-pass ratio for the Broncos with Tebow at QB), but they might get a bit of a break with at least one major absence in the backfield of the 2nd ranked rush offense in the league.

While the vaunted Jets defense has been known as an elite squad for years under head coach Rex Ryan, ranking 8th in total defense heading into this match-up, it’s going to be interesting to see how New York’s 15th ranked defense against the rush (116 yards/game allowed) stands up to a full-out assault on their defensive line, against a Denver team that rushed an astonishing 55 times last week, and put down 244 yards on the ground. Though the Broncos will be without the services of back-up rusher Knowshon Moreno, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear last week, they look to have Willis McGahee fit for duty (hamstring) as the lead back, and will look to 3rd stringer Lance Ball and recent call-up Jeremiah Johnson in the backfield tonight as well, especially should anything happen to McGahee early on. With the Broncos electing to pass just 8 times last week, it’ll be interesting to see whether head coach John Fox includes a more balanced game plan ¬†tonight (something that has been tough to consider, taking into account Tim Tebow’s awful accuracy of 44.8% this season) to disrupt the preparations made during a short week for New York, but with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie locking things down and primed to take advantages of mistakes by a young quarterback, few would question a decision to once again feature the run almost exclusively, and keep the ball from being put in the air against a strong, 8th ranked pass defense.

The Broncos edged out the Kansas City Chiefs last week mainly by limiting mistakes and keeping the ball on the ground, and that is a key to the outcome of this game tonight against the New York Jets, who also will look to establish the run against the league’s 18th ranked defense (16th against the rush). The Jets unfortunately look to be without the services of veteran running back LaDanian Tomlinson, who along with lead running back Shonn Greene have both shown vast improvement in the past few games, averaging 125 yards/game on the ground in the last 4 contests. It’s very important for the Jets that Greene gets into the mix in this game early and often, so that quarterback Mark Sanchez can be free to work downfield against a Denver secondary that is suspect and prone to allow big plays against them (ranked 20th against the pass), at least wherever star cornerback Champ Bailey isn’t residing. Also important for the Jets is getting lots of involvement from their receiving corps tonight, especially Santonio Holmes, who saw a season-high 6 catches for 93 yards in the loss against the Patriots after being all but ignored the previous two weeks. While Denver’s success lies with pounding the ball on the ground while their unique offensive look keeps the defense guessing, the Jets really have to spread out their offense to keep the Broncos on their heels, and utilizing Holmes, tight end Dustin Keller and the lanky Plaxico Burress against a relatively short defensive squad could prove fruitful provided the costly mistakes don’t pile up once again.

Betting Lines for the Denver Broncos vs. New York Jets at Bodog.eu Sportsbook

The Broncos find themselves in familiar territory as underdogs on the betting lines at Bodog.eu, one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here on our website. However, that may continue to work to their advantage as the pressure for tonight’s game lies much more with the Jets, who can’t afford to lose another road game (1-3 on the year) without seriously damaging their hopes at an AFC East title. With ¬†the Broncos coming in at +245 underdogs on the money line, those willing to take the risk on a young quarterback and a scrappy style of play could come away with good money on this game, provided the score stays low and the Denver defense stays off the field for the majority of the game. With the Jets at -290 odds as the favorite, it’s an almost riskier proposition taking New York as a straight up wager to win, as coming off a short week and facing an unconventional Denver offense on the road creates lots of question marks, as does the potential for the Jets to destroy their own chances by making critical errors. With -7 points on the spread (-105 odds) going to the Jets, and the Broncos getting 7 points (+115), there is great potential here to back Denver at home, in the expectation that the game could be a low-scoring affair, with sluggish offensive production as the run game dominates the evening. With that said, it’s no surprise the over/under on tonight’s game stands at a low 40 points (-110 odds either way at Bodog), especially if one running game or the other sputters coming off a short week.

Our Pick to Win:

It’s tough to call these gritty games where often the game comes down to a final possession, but it’s also tough to ignore the success Tim Tebow has had this season by simply grinding it out and winning at any cost. In a game where a few mistakes could make the difference, I like the Broncos at home tonight, despite questions about where their offensive production comes from. Though I fully expect to see Mark Sanchez improve on a tough game last Sunday, I also expect the Jets to be forced into more passing plays than they are used to, and if the Denver pass rush can continually apply pressure to Sanchez and force errors to be made, Denver comes away with an upset tonight. That said, for online sports betting on this featured NFL match-up, if the Jets can establish the vertical passing game and make a couple of big plays, New York could run away with this road match-up and put themselves firmly back in the AFC East hunt. For Thursday however, it’s no fun going with expectations on the game’s outcome, and as such I’ll take Denver to pull out a close game at home, 20-17.

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