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Jets vs Jaguars: 5 Questions with Big Cat Country

SB Nation’s Jaguars expert Ryan O’Bleness answers our questions on the Jacksonville Jaguars

Dallas Cowboys v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The New York Jets try to rebound from a tough loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday when they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in MetLife Stadium this week. Previewing this matchup, Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2022 Jaguars.

Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.

1. The Jaguars started the season going 2-1, then lost five straight games to fall to 2-6, before rebounding to a 4-2 record over the last six games. It’s been something of a rollercoaster. What are the major factors that have resulted in the Jaguars’ recent uptrend?

The emergence of quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the biggest thing. Lawrence’s play directly impacts how the Jaguars perform, of course. Over the past six games, he has been on an absolute tear, completing 157 of 223 passes (70.4%) for 1,680 yards with 14 touchdowns and one interception. It took a while for Lawrence to deliver on the promise of his off-the-charts potential, but there should be zero doubts about him now.

I also think the coaching has played a huge role. Doug Pederson is head and shoulders a superior coach to whatever Urban Meyer was last year. I believe that Pederson has played a huge role in the development of Lawrence. Also, Pederson’s ability to scheme plays to create mismatches on offense and his use of pre-snap motion and slick play-designs have been fun to watch. It hasn’t been perfect with Pederson. There have been clock management issues and he has a tendency to abandon the run too quickly, but the good has certainly outweighed the bad.

Even the defensive players have praised the coaching. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who had a career game in the win over the Dallas Cowboys last week, spoke about the difference in coaching from last season to this season:

Also over the past six games, Jacksonville has dominated in the turnovers category. The Jaguars have generated 12 takeaways compared to six giveaways.

2. At this time of year almost every NFL team is dealing with a number of injuries to key personnel. Could you let us know the key injuries the Jaguars are dealing with, which key players are likely to miss the game on Thursday night, the backups likely to step in, and the effect the injuries are likely to have on the Jaguars?

The biggest injury for the Jaguars right now is with left tackle Cam Robinson. He could miss the rest of the year with a right meniscus injury. This is a huge loss, as Robinson has been quite solid this season, allowing just four sacks and 27 pressures on 558 pass-blocking snaps. Second-year player Walker Little will step in for Robinson. It will be interesting to see how Little holds up against a tough New York defense.

On defense, outside linebacker pass-rusher Travon Walker and defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi have already been ruled out, which doesn’t help the Jaguars in the trenches. I would expect guys like Arden Key, K’Lavon Chaisson (who has struggled during his time in Jacksonville), Adam Gotsis and Dawuane Smoot to step up in their absence.

3. What are the areas on offense and on defense where the Jaguars may have an advantage over the Jets? Which matchups should Jets fans be concerned are likely to go the Jaguars’ way?

This is an interesting matchup. The Jets have a stout defense across the board, ranking third in total defense (305.4 yards allowed per game), fourth in passing defense (193.9 yard allowed per game), 11th in rushing defense (111.5 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (18.8 points allowed per game). Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s offense ranks sixth overall (367.9 yards per game), 10th in passing offense (240.7 yards per game) and 10th in rushing offense (127.2 yards per game). It’s strength versus strength. Something’s got to give, right? It’s too hard to predict which of these units will perform better on Thursday night.

Additionally, the Jaguars have given up just 24 sacks this season (fifth-fewest in the NFL), while the Jets have recorded 39 sacks (ninth-most). Another strength versus strength.

Given the poor weather conditions expected on Thursday night, I think points are going to be hard to come by. I am not necessarily looking at this game as one unit versus the other unit, or individual player matchups. I think the winner of this game comes down to which team handles the weather better (I would assume New York is better prepared for these conditions), which staff can out-coach the other (specifically if Pederson’s offensive play-calling can out-scheme Saleh’s/Jeff Ulbric’s defense) and turnovers.

That last point is important. Where Jacksonville has the clear advantage this season is in turnover differential. The Jaguars are plus-four (+4) on the year, while the Jets are minus-three (-3). If the Jaguars can pressure Zach Wilson, sack him and force him into some bad throws, thus potentially generating turnovers, then Jacksonville’s chances of getting a road win will obviously increase significantly.

4. What is the best way to successfully attack the Jaguars on offense and on defense?

When the Jaguars are on defense, New York could find success attacking the middle of the field with things like crossing routes and slants. The Jaguars have struggled to defend the pass overall this season, allowing 252.6 yards per game through the air (29th in the NFL). Of course, Zach Wilson would have to play much more consistently for the Jets to accomplish this, and again with the weather, that’s not a given.

Jacksonville has also regressed while defending the run this season. After a strong start in that aspect early in the year, the team now ranks 16th in the NFL and allows 118.1 rushing yards per game. Over the past eight games, the Jaguars have allowed nearly 140 rushing yards per game to opponents. I know running the football isn’t exactly a strength for New York, but if the Jets can find success on the ground against the Jaguars, that will set them up nicely for a victory.

When the Jaguars are on offense, the Jets would be smart to test Walker as he steps into the starting role. Again, the Jaguars haven’t allowed many sacks this year, but with Robinson out, the Jets could get home. New York needs to pressure Lawrence and not allow him to get comfortable in the pocket.

The Jets will also need to shut down Travis Etienne and the running game, and force Lawrence to make difficult throws in wind and rainy conditions.

5. According to DraftKings Sportsbook this game is pretty close to a tossup. Both these teams need this game badly for their playoff chances. Which team would you bet on to emerge with a victory on Thursday night and why?

Given the inclement weather expected, this game is hard to predict. The Jaguars are on a bit of a hot streak right now, but the Jets have a strong defense, and the swirling winds and rain will play a factor. I would like the Jaguars in this one if the conditions were clear, but I have no idea now. Field-goal kicking and scoring points in general will be difficult. I think the Jets win in a close one, but the Jaguars cover the 2.5-point spread. Score prediction: Jets 14, Jaguars 13