AFC scouting report

January 17, 1999|By Ken Murray

Curtis Martin, who signed a $36 million free-agent contract with the Jets last off-season, averaged just 3.5 yards a carry on 369 rushes, third most in the NFL. Jets coach Bill Parcells admits he may have overworked him. But Martin delivered quantity (1,287 yards) and quality (eight 100-yard games). He will get a heavy workload against the Broncos' No. 3 run defense, which gave up 80.4 rushing yards a game and 3.6 a carry. -- EDGE -- Broncos

Jets pass offense vs. Broncos pass defense -- Vinny Testaverde gave the Jets a big-time passing game to complement the run. He led the AFC with a 101.6 passer rating, threw for 3,256 yards, 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet each had 1,000 yards receiving, and the Jets ranked fourth in passing. The Broncos, with Ray Crockett and Darrien Gordon at the corners, ranked 26th in pass defense, giving up 28 touchdown passes. -- EDGE -- Jets

Broncos run offense vs. Jets run defense -- Terrell Davis had a magical run for the Broncos, gaining 2,008 yards. He averaged a phenomenal 5.1 yards a carry and 125.5 yards a game, and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. He is at his best when cutting back against the flow of the defense. The Broncos ranked second in rush offense, while the Jets were 14th against the run. -- EDGE -- Broncos

Broncos pass offense vs. Jets pass defense -- John Elway finished second to Testaverde among AFC passers with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His leading receiver was Rod Smith (86 catches), but Ed McCaffrey and Shannon Sharpe had 10 touchdown receptions apiece. That threesome will be matched against Otis Smith, Marcus Coleman and Victor Green. The Broncos were seventh in pass offense, the Jets ninth in pass defense in a close matchup. -- EDGE -- EVEN

Special teams -- Kicker Jason Elam had a special season for the Broncos, hitting 23 of 27 field-goal attempts with a record-tying 63-yarder. He has the edge over the Jets' John Hall (25-for-35, long of 54). Punter Tom Rouen was fourth in the AFC with a net average of 37.6, compared to John Kidd's 36.3. The Broncos had the better returners, too. Vaughn Hebron (Cardinal Gibbons) ranked third in the AFC with a 26.4 kickoff-return average, and Gordon averaged 11.1 on punt returns. Parcells brought in David Meggett to handle the Jets' returns down the stretch. -- EDGE -- Broncos

Key matchup -- Jets linebackers Mo Lewis, Pepper Johnson and Bryan Cox vs. Davis. The Broncos committed an extra blocker to getting Davis into the Miami secondary last week, and his cutback running style capitalized on the Dolphins' over-pursuit. The Jets will have to blitz selectively to keep from giving up the big play, and be disciplined against the cutback. -- EDGE -- Broncos

Intangibles -- The Broncos have won 18 straight games at Mile High Stadium, and have the confidence befitting a Super Bowl champion. Whether Parcells and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick can do something to unsettle that confidence is the key. There is no better big-game coach than Parcells. But Denver's Mike Shanahan might be close. -- EDGE -- Jets

Prediction -- With the anticipation that Denver's defense and crowd noise will get to Testaverde, the call here is for the Broncos to prevail with a tough, 31-27 victory. -- EDGE -- Broncos

Pub Date: 1/17/99

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