Old AFL rivals Jets, Chargers going opposite ways

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers are rolling, winners of three straight games because Philip Rivers' accurate right arm has been more than enough to overcome a non-existent running game.

The New York Jets are floundering, losers of three straight games behind Geno Smith, who is hurling interceptions and expletives.

The original AFL teams meet Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium for the first time since the Jets embarrassed the Chargers in a division round playoff game after the 2009 season.

While the teams are heading in different directions, it could be an entertaining game, as they usually are between these teams.

Rivers says there's no grudge element, since the teams have played twice in New Jersey — each winning once — since the playoff game five seasons ago. He does know that if he and his teammates aren't ready, they could have a long day against the Jets defense.

"It's a credit to them," Rivers said. "There's something about the Jets, the type of attention they get and quite frankly, the attention they've earned. The style of defense they play, it's just such a challenge. It's fun to prepare for them all week because they're so tough.

"You always know you can throw the records out, throw everything out, throw anything out," Rivers said. "You have to go play well on Sunday to find a way to win."

Here are some things to watch for when the Jets (1-3) visit the Chargers (3-1).

RIVERS ROLLING: The Bolts' efficient QB leads the NFL with a 114.5 passer rating and has thrown for nine touchdowns with just one interception.

He's had a rating of higher than 120.0 in each of the past three games, matching the longest streak of his career. He's been at 130.0 or higher in two straight games. The starter since 2006, Rivers has never done that in three straight games.

GENO'S WORLD: Smith's job appears to be on shaky ground. Coach Rex Ryan has insisted the QB has his support, but if he struggles again, calls for Michael Vick could reach a fever pitch. With the Jets facing Denver and New England next, the season could hinge on what happens at QB.

With five interceptions and two lost fumbles in four games, there needs to be improvement Sunday at San Diego.

"It's about wins and losses," Smith said. "We've got to win more games. Ultimately, that's the only thing. I don't think it's about anything other than that."

Smith insists the pressure isn't getting to him, but yelling an expletive at a heckler after the Jets' 24-17 loss to Detroit last Sunday suggested there's perhaps a slight crack in what had previously been considered thick skin.

RUNNING ON EMPTY: The Chargers' running game has hit the wall. The Bolts aren't making any excuses, even after losing Danny Woodhead for the season with a broken lower right leg and Ryan Mathews indefinitely with a sprained right knee.

They're averaging just 2.4 yards per carry.

Coach Mike McCoy says it has to get better and will get better.

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich used a boxing analogy.

"Every game is like a boxing match. You have plans to attack in certain ways, but when you find a weakness in certain areas, you expose that. In a couple of these games we've been really good in the passing game so we've been somewhat of a pass-first team.

"The boxing analogy would be you can't underestimate the importance of those continual jabs to the midsection. We're going to keep throwing those jabs. We're going to keep plugging away and get this thing on the right track."

JETS ON THE GROUND: New York has the NFL's No. 2-ranked rushing game behind Chris Ivory (274 yards, two TDs) and Chris Johnson 167 yards, one TD). Even so, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has made some head-scratching calls, such as moving away from the running game at times and letting Smith throw.

NEW YORK DEFENSE: The Jets are interesting on defense. New York leads the NFL with 14 sacks and is the NFL's stingiest defense against the run. But the No. 3 overall ranking is a bit deceiving because the secondary is shaky. The Jets are one of only two teams (Saints) without an interception this season.


AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak in Florham Park, New Jersey, contributed to this story.


Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson


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