The Jacksonville Jaguars Are Road Favorites (-3.5) For The First Time Since 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Fresh off their third consecutive win in London, the 2-1 Jacksonville Jaguars head to Met Life Stadium Sunday to face the New York Jets. The Jags thrashed the Baltimore Ravens (Ravens’ first game in London) on both sides of the ball in a 44-7 victory. But with no bye week after the London Game like in previous years, how will their bodies react to the turnaround?
The Jags haven’t been very successful in the early part of the season in past years. In fact, the last time they were 2-1 was 2007. The last time they were favorites on the road was week 10, 2011 against the Indianapolis Colts, the year Peyton Manning didn’t play because of a neck injury.
This game is important, for with a win comes excitement and pride at 3-1 for local fans. With no major college programs and no other major professional sports teams, the sensation of a Jacksonville Jaguars win will be liberating.
The Good Bortles
The Jags picked up quarterback Blake Bortles’s fifth-year option on May 1, his last shot to prove he’s a franchise quarterback. With speculation, if Bortles would even begin the season as the starting quarterback, his stat line from Sunday against Baltimore would suggest that he is. 244 yards, four touchdowns while completing 64.5% of his passes, maybe the Jaguars should play all their games in London, Bortles is 3-0 at Wembley Stadium.
However, since Bortles had come into the league four years ago, no player in the NFL has turned the ball over more, and he is among the most sacked quarterbacks in the league.
Last Sunday Bortles had zero interceptions and zero sacks which led to their 44-7 win. In the Jags week two loss to the Tennessee Titans, Bortles threw two interceptions to go along with two sacks. In week one at NRG Stadium vs. the Houston Texans, he had zero sacks and zero interceptions in the 29-7 win.
Bortles will try to duplicate his performance from last week against a Jets team that ranks 13th in pass defense, 16th in sacks and struggle to find turnovers. Hopefully, this pivotal moment of the young season isn’t too big for the former UCF quarterback.
Run Fournette Run
The Jags used their tenth consecutive top ten picks on running back Leonard Fournette out of LSU. The former high school and college All-American turned heads when asked about his first preseason game against the New England Patriots.
“It’s a lot slower than I thought,” Fournette said after the game comparing it to playing in the SEC where he averaged 6.2 yards a carry.
So far, this season Leonard Fournette is eighth in the NFL in rushing yards, and the Jags are fifth in the league. The running back is everything Jacksonville could hope for. He provides consistency at the running back position and most of all, balance. This year the Jags are running the ball 52% of the time vs. 38.5% in 2016.
Fournette will have room to run at Met Life Stadium as the Jets give up 133.3 yards a game on the ground this year. The Jets have given up the most yards against the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders, giving up 190 yards and 180 yards respectively. Last week the Jets defense proved stouter against the Miami Dolphins, giving up only 30 yards. The Jaguars will have to stick to the ground game to provide balance and keep the pressure off Bortles.
The single biggest reason, the Jaguars are favorites on the road for the first time since 2011 is their third-ranked defense vs. the Jets’ 30th ranked offense. Jacksonville is first in passing defense, first in sacks and fourth in points per game. The season is young, but those marks are impressive for a team who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007.
With a huge amount of resources committed to the defensive line: $90 million to Malik Jackson, $60 million to Calais Campbell, 1st round pick for Dante Fowler and 3rd round pick for Yannick Ngakoue, the D-line will be the most important group for the Jags on Sunday. This group leads the league with 13 sacks, while the Jets have given up seven.
If the Jacksonville offense can get up early as they have in their first two wins, the defense can pin their ears back and get after the New York quarterback, Josh McCown. The Jets wide receiver corps is mediocre at best, with average and aging running backs.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will win this game with defense if they want to be taken seriously around the league.