- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Rex Ryan better brush up on his chess game before Sunday.

With his team on a four-game skid and staring at a season on the verge of growing increasingly more gloomy, the New York Jets coach is charged with the task of trying to stop - or better yet, slow down - Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

“The challenging thing, you’re going against, gosh, Bobby Fischer, I guess, as far as a chess game’s concerned or something,” Ryan said, referring to the late American chess champion. “Is that the right name? That’s pretty good, fellas, right there. We’ve got to match wits, and it’s Rex Ryan versus Bobby Fischer in a chess match.

“I’ll try to find a way to knock some of those pieces off, steal them off, but that’s what I do.”

Manning, five touchdown passes from tying Brett Favre’s career record of 508, is off to another incredible start. The Broncos (3-1) are also looking very much like the team that went to the Super Bowl a year ago.

Meanwhile, the Jets (1-4) are off to their worst start in Ryan’s six seasons.

“We look at tape and some people on the outside look at records and all of that fun stuff,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “Our guys understand, like any road trip, we’re going into a hornets’ nest.”

Manning passed for a career-high 479 yards last weekend in a 41-20 blowout win against Arizona with four TDs, tying Dan Marino for the most 400-yard games in NFL history with 13. Manning entered the week tied for the NFL lead with 12 touchdown passes for the Broncos’ No. 6-ranked offense.

“Numbers can be misleading,” Manning said of his early season stats. “There are still things that we need to improve on and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Uh oh, for Ryan and the Jets.

Ryan is 2-5 as both a defensive coordinator with Baltimore and as a head coach with New York against Manning in his career. One of Ryan’s wins, though, came when the Indianapolis Colts pulled Manning early to prevent injury despite the team going for a perfect regular-season record.

“Yeah, unfortunately, I’ve got my share of welts from him, as does every coordinator in this league,” Ryan said. “I don’t know who can stop him.”

Here are a few things to know as Manning and the Broncos head to MetLife Stadium - the scene of their Super Bowl loss to Seattle - to face the Jets:

SUPER DEMARYIUS: After a slow start, Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas broke out in a big way last weekend.

He set the Broncos’ single-game record with 226 yards receiving on eight catches against the Cardinals, just the fifth 200-yard receiving game in team history. It could’ve been an even bigger game: A chop block by Julius Thomas wiped out a 77-yard touchdown catch.

Thomas was selected as the AFC’s offensive player of the week for his performance. He could pose a major problem for the Jets’ struggling secondary, which got top cornerback Dee Milliner back last week from a quadriceps injury.

STRUGGLING SMITH: Jets quarterback Geno Smith had a week filled with apologies.

He was fined $12,000 by the NFL last week for cursing at a heckler, missed a team meeting the night before the Jets’ 31-0 loss at San Diego and was benched at halftime of that game in favor of Michael Vick. Ryan decided to start Smith in this game, but if he struggles again, the second-year quarterback could head to the sideline. And this time, for good.

“I definitely have to play better,” said Smith, who has six interceptions and two lost fumbles.

DECKER VS. DENVER: Wide receiver Eric Decker is playing against his former team for the first time since signing with the Jets in the offseason.

Decker spent his first four NFL seasons with the Broncos, and had 222 catches for 3,070 yards and 33 TDs with them. He has 14 receptions for 204 yards and two TDs while dealing with tightness in his hamstring, which kept him out of last week’s game but should play in this one.

GROUNDED GROUND GAME?: Montee Ball is out with a groin pull, so the Broncos will have to dig into their depth chart in the backfield.

Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson and C.J. Anderson could all split time running the ball - but none have ever started an NFL game. And they’ll be going up against a Jets run defense that ranks sixth in the NFL.

KICKIN’ IT: First-year kicker Brandon McManus turned his temporary job with the Broncos into a full-time gig after Denver released Matt Prater last Friday.

The strong-legged McManus, who had been in Giants camp this summer, made the most of his opportunity after Prater was suspended the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. But the pressure’s still on McManus after he missed a long field goal, banged one through off the left upright and nearly missed an extra point after the Broncos made their decision to keep him.

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colorado, contributed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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