|National Football League|
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By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Sweeping changes seem to be on the horizon for the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers.
The Jets have already made one big move that appears to just be the beginning.
With Mark Sanchez benched, Greg McElroy moves past Tim Tebow on the depth chart and will get his first start as New York hosts the spiraling Chargers on Sunday.
The Jets (6-8) and Chargers (5-9) are eliminated from playoff contention, and may be two of the biggest disappointments in the AFC.
Those lackluster seasons are likely to start producing changes - on the field and off.
New York has produced the first high-profile one, relegating Sanchez - once seen as the franchise quarterback - to the bench in favor of third-stringer McElroy.
The move comes after Sanchez threw four interceptions and fumbled away a low snap that sealed a 14-10 loss at Tennessee on Monday.
"This is my opinion, and I do believe that it's best for our team that Greg is our quarterback," coach Rex Ryan said. "I'm the guy that's making this decision. Every decision I make is based on what I believe is the best decision for the team.
"I definitely think I want to see what Greg can do. He's a winner. He's been a winner his whole life."
McElroy, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama last year, led the Jets to a win in his only appearance this season, completing 5 of 7 passes for 29 yards - including a 1-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown toss to tight end Jeff Cumberland - in a 7-6 victory over Arizona in Week 13. He was inserted after Sanchez threw three picks.
Sanchez has 17 INTs on the season, and leads the NFL with 24 total turnovers to give him a staggering 50 in two seasons.
Despite a hefty contract extension signed in the offseason, speculation is rampant that Sanchez may be on his way out, with Tebow not far behind.
Tebow has 39 yards while completing 6 of 8 passes and 102 yards on 32 carries as he continues to be an unmitigated bust in Tony Sparano's offense.
The failed decision to trade for Tebow is another reason Ryan, Sparano and general manager Mike Tannenbaum may also have their respective jobs on the line.
"People can speculate anything they want," Ryan said. "Obviously, as a football team, we're 6-8 and nobody's happy about that and ultimately, I'm the one accountable."
The same is certainly true for embattled coach Norv Turner, who is overseeing a third consecutive season out of the playoffs and the Chargers' first losing record since going 4-12 in 2003.
He seems to be already thinking about his next job.
When asked if becoming an offensive coordinator would appeal to him, Turner said he would want to be in "a place where you have an opportunity to win and be in a situation that there are coaches I've worked with and been around."
San Diego has its own turnover-prone signal caller in Philip Rivers, who isn't far behind Sanchez with 47 giveaways over the past two seasons - with 15 interceptions among his 22 this year.
He was roundly booed at home last week, completing 16 of 23 passes for 121 yards with one touchdown and four fumbles - two lost - while getting sacked a season high-tying six times in a 31-7 loss to Carolina.
The Chargers were held to a season-low 164 yards of offense.
"I think bottom line, we didn't show up," linebacker Takeo Spikes said.
Rivers may be in for another rough outing since the Jets' defense is yielding an average of 117.0 passing yards - 240.7 overall - in the last three games.
To make matters worse, he'll be without his top rusher and receiver for the final two games. The Chargers placed Ryan Mathews and Malcom Floyd on injured reserve Tuesday along with Reggie Wells, who had started at right tackle the past two games.
San Diego has been held to 306.0 yards per game - 227.5 through the air - while losing the last two meetings to New York, including a 17-14 divisional playoff defeat in 2010.
Rivers struggled in the most recent matchup in East Rutherford on Oct. 23, 2011, completing half of his 32 passes for 179 yards with one TD and two picks in a 27-21 loss.
Another TD pass to Antonio Gates, however, will give the tight end sole possession of a team record. The two connected for the Chargers' lone score last week, tying Gates with Lance Alworth for the franchise record with 81 touchdown catches.
Updated December 19, 2012
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