1:00 PM ET, October 23, 2011
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
For being on the brink of their best start in nine years, the San Diego Chargers don't seem to share the excitement normally reserved for a 4-1 team.
San Diego comes off its bye week seeking a fourth straight victory Sunday when it takes on New York, winner of six of its last seven at home.
The Chargers haven't won five of their first six games since starting the 2002 season 6-1. That squad finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs -- a position this team hopes to avoid repeating.
Their victories, however, have come against teams with a combined 4-17 record, and they were beat 35-21 when facing AFC East-leading New England in Week 2.
San Diego's wins have been by a total of 25 points after staving off a comeback to beat 1-4 Denver 29-24 on Oct. 9.
"It hasn't been an easy 4-1 and I think that keeps you ... real critical of yourself and of different areas and allows you to know you've got areas to improve in because it hasn't just been a smooth few weeks," said Philip Rivers, who threw for a season-low 250 yards against the Broncos.
"We've had to fight wins out and we haven't played necessarily great, but we've played good enough and certainly we know we can improve and get better, and we know we have to as the year progresses."
Rivers' seven interceptions are tied for second-most in the AFC, though he may get one of his favorite targets back in time for Sunday's game.
Tight end Antonio Gates has missed the last three games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and is hopeful he can play.
"There's no cure that can fix the problem, especially with the force I use to run around and make plays," Gates said. "You just hope that you don't tear something and have a setback."
Rivers and Gates connected for a touchdown in a 48-29 win over the Jets in the teams' last regular-season meeting Sept. 22, 2008. Rivers, however, struggled and threw two interceptions as New York beat San Diego 17-14 in a divisional playoff game Jan. 17, 2010.
That contest marked the final time Tomlinson would play for the Chargers after he rushed for 12,490 yards and 138 touchdowns -- including an NFL-record 28 in 2006 -- in nine seasons.
He was released in the offseason and signed with the Jets, where he still remains a contributor in his second season with the team.
"I'm not a guy who holds grudges or tries to prove anyone wrong," Tomlinson said. "I don't have time for that. It's nonsense.
"I had a great nine years there and I don't want to make it more than it is."
New York coach Rex Ryan said it will be exciting for Tomlinson to take the field against his former team for the first time.
"Look at the success LT had (in San Diego)," Ryan said. "Here's a first-ballot Hall of Famer that broke the touchdown record, that did all these types of things. It's going to be so special for him. He's going to be ready."
The same goes for the rest of the Jets (3-3), according to Ryan.
New York avoided a fourth straight loss with a 24-6 win over winless Miami on Monday night. The Jets have won each of their three games at home and won three of their final four there in 2010.
The Jets sit in third place in the East behind New England (5-1) and Buffalo (4-2).
"We have to win this one," Ryan said. "We definitely need to get this win in our backyard in front of our fans.
"This is a critical game for us and we're approaching it that way."
It may also be a critical game for quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has struggled for the better part of the season. He threw for 201 yards and a touchdown Monday after passing for less than 200 in three of his last four games.
Sanchez's 82.3 passer rating ranks 20th in the NFL, and nothing seems to get easier facing a Chargers defense which ranks second in the league against the pass.
The Jets are worst in the NFL with 35.1 percent of their drives ending in three-and-outs.
"It's crazy," Ryan said. "It kind of blows me away."
The teams have split the last four meetings, with San Diego winning two regular-season matchups and New York winning playoff games in 2005 and 2010.
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San Diego Chargers
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New York Jets
|Avg Points Allowed||22.7||21.7|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||SD|
|Rush Yds Allowed||SD|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|NY Jets leads 5-2|
|Jan 17, 2010||SD 14, NYJ 17|
|Sep 22, 2008||SD 48, NYJ 29|
|Nov 6, 2005||SD 31, @NYJ 26|
|Jan 8, 2005||SD 17, NYJ 20|
|Sep 19, 2004||SD 28, NYJ 34|
|Nov 3, 2002||SD 13, NYJ 44|