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Jets vs. Jaguars Game Preview

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Battle of the Js

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I became a Jets fan when I was very young. My father was a Giants fan and football was often on the television, so I learned to love the sport. When it came time to pick a team, it was a pretty easy choice. I lived in New York, my name starts with a J, and my favorite color is green. It was destiny. Years later, the NFL decided to expand the league to 32 teams. One of the fledgling teams being added to this crazy division known as the AFC South was called the Jaguars. They were green. They had the letter J. They had little to no chance of winning games. Obviously, they appealed to me. About twenty years later, not much has changed. The Jets and Jaguars have been suffering over the last decade, but there's still reason for optimism.

Where We Are

Last week was rough. It was so rough, in fact, that I didn't give out any helmet stickers. I really couldn't find 3 players worthy of praise after a total letdown of a game in Oakland. Not only did the Jets look awful on the field, but they also lost to a team that is likely to be one of their major competitors for a Wild Card spot in a couple months. The Jets defensive line looked bad. The Jets linebackers looked bad. The Jets secondary looked bad. The Jets passing offense looked bad. The Jets rushing offense looked bad. Needless to say, the Jets looked something other than good against the Raiders. Now the Jets come home with the intent of proving last week was a fluke. After two consecutive road losses, the Jets need to flip the script.

Where They Are

The Jaguars are pretty much the opposite of the Jets right now. The Jaguars are coming off of an upset win at home (technically) against the Bills. Sitting at 2-5, the Jags are not exactly in the thick of the playoff hunt. Expectations are extremely low, but the team is young and improving. I'm not an expert on Blake Bortles, but he is certainly playing better than he did in his Sanchezian rookie season. The receivers are young and talented, including the recently returned tight end Julius Thomas. Their rookie running back is improving week by week. This is not the Jaguars' year, but there are very few old, veteran players on the team. The few that they have will not really be missed. The team is on the right path to improvement, but they'll likely be the underdogs in every game this year.

Injury Report

Jets

Colon, Willie G Knee DNP DNP LP questionable
Cromartie, Antonio CB Hip FP FP FP probable
Davis, Kellen TE Hand LP FP FP probable
Decker, Eric WR Knee DNP DNP FP probable
Fitzpatrick, Ryan QB Left Thumb FP FP FP probable
Ivory, Chris RB Hamstring FP FP FP probable
Mangold, Nick C Neck DNP LP FP probable
Marshall, Brandon WR Toe/Ankle DNP LP LP questionable
McDougle, Dexter CB Hand/Ankle FP FP FP probable
Powell, Bilal RB Ankle LP LP LP doubtful
Pryor, Calvin S Ankle DNP DNP DNP Out
Ridley, Stevan RB Knee FP FP FP probable
Skrine, Buster CB Shoulder/Hand LP LP LP questionable
Smith, Devin WR Foot DNP LP FP probable
Smith, Geno QB Left Shoulder FP FP FP probable

Jaguars

Beadles, Zane G Foot DNP LP FP Questionable
Evans, Josh S Groin DNP LP FP Probable
Lee, Marqise WR Hamstring DNP DNP LP Doubtful
Hurns, Allen WR Ankle/Thigh LP LP FP Probable
Sample, James S Shoulder LP LP LP Questionable
Greene, Rashad WR Thumb FP FP FP (Short-Term IR)
Thomas, Julius TE Abdomen FP FP FP Probable

X-Factors

Jets

I typically try to avoid the quarterback here, especially considering he was my X-factor last week, but Fitzpatrick's health will be a major factor in this game. Fitzpatrick has a badly injured finger on his non-throwing hand and it is certainly going to hurt him during the game. How much it effects his ability to play is hard to determine. Will he be able to take snaps under center? Will he be able to hand the ball off? Will he make it through the entire game? There are a lot of questions surrounding his health, but it's also fair to question his play. He was very good against the Patriots, but he's been inconsistent as a whole over the season. Based off of his last game, Fitz is a solid quarterback. Based off of the first quarter of the season, he is a serious liability. Add in an injured finger that could sideline him (for another injured QB) or have no effect at all and we are talking about some serious question marks at quarterback. Let's hope he answers them with aplomb, Jets fans!

Jaguars

Last week, I assumed that the Jets' secondary could handle anyone and picked a running back in this spot. Based on last week, I'm not sure the Jets' secondary could cover me (with a 15 yard head start, but hey...) The Jaguars have 2 solid receivers on the outside, but the return of Julius Thomas spells trouble for the Jets. The Jets allowed Gronkowski to record a career high 11 receptions for over 100 yards and a TD. The Jets' linebackers have never been good in coverage and Gilchrist had an awful game last week. With Pryor still out, the options for covering tight ends are fewer than ever. After a disappointing and injury filled start to his Jacksonville career, Thomas finally seems ready to go off against a team that struggles covering backs and tight ends. If the Jaguars want to win, they're going to need to exploit throws to tight ends and secondary receivers. If JT has a big game, the Jaguars could easily pull an upset.

Keys To Victory

Do the opposite of everything you did last week, Jets. The. Exact. Opposite. The Jaguars are a team that is surprisingly similar to the Raiders on offense. A second year QB coming into his own with 2 young studs on the outside and a young stable of running backs. The Jaguars also have an elite tight end, though he has not been healthy much this season. The Jets are going to have to shade a lot of coverage to help anyone not named Revis. The defensive line is going to have to perform considerably better than they did last week and generate some legitimate pressure with 3-5 man rushes. I have faith in the Jets defense to stop T.J. Yeldon as a rusher, but I'm worried about the combination of Robinson and Hurns on the outside when you add Julius Thomas and Yeldon to the equation. Cromartie was ruined last week by Crabtree and Holmes, guys who aren't exactly in elite company, and Robinson and Hurns are considerably more worrisome. Add Thomas on a linebacker, and the Jets are going to have to get a pass rush going or they will be watching the Jaguars move the ball in huge chunks.

On offense, it's really going to depend on the health of Jets' players. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Chris Ivory, Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, Nick Mangold, and Willie Colon are all dealing with injuries. That's 7 of the 11 essential starting players dealing with injuries. On top of that, rotational players Bilal Powell, Devin Smith, and Kellen Davis are all hurting as well. Heck, Breno Giacomini, James Carpenter, and ??? tight end are the only fully healthy offensive starters. Is the offensive line healthy enough to run block? Is Ivory healthy enough to capitalize? Is Fitzpatrick healthy enough to throw if Ivory isn't? Is there a healthy receiver to catch it anyway? I honestly can't come up with a gameplan for the Jets because the team is totally ravaged by injuries.

The Bottom Line

This is a game the Jets can't afford to lose. This is a home game against a young, but clearly inferior team. The Jets have lost 2 in a row and can't be taken seriously if they drop another at home. They have a short week after this game, playing against a feisty Bills team that will be seriously motivated for a majorly hyped game. If the Jets lose this game, they don't deserve a wild card spot. This is the kind of game that a playoff team should win by several scores. I know a lot of people are down on the Jets after last week and I know the Jets have a lot of injuries. I don't care. The Jets need to win this game by a comfortable margin or the rest of the season will be at risk. I expect the Jets to win by about 10 points, but I'm hoping that they make a statement at home after two crushing losses.