The Jaguars are coming off of a 44-7 drubbing of the Baltimore Ravens and have played solid to dominant football in 10 of 12 quarters this season. Expectations are starting to build for the Jaguars as they enter week four of the regular season with a 2-1 record and a juicy road matchup against the New York Jets. The Jaguars are favored to win a road game for the first time since 2011 (no, that's not a typo). With playoff aspirations already being discussed around Jacksonville and a Jets team that is expected to finish with a top three pick following the 2017 season, the Jaguars are actually entering a trap game!
It feels weird to say (and write, for that matter), but the Jaguars are easily the better team in this matchup and have high expectations, while the Jets just want to see their young players blossom en route to another high draft pick.
Most expected the Jets to enter this game winless, but their defense showed a real spark in week three against the Dolphins, lead by linebackers DeMario Davis and Darron Lee, and standout rookie safety Jamal Adams. The Jets defense could present the Jaguars some problems in this one, but on the offensive side of the ball the Jets results will likely look similar to what the Ravens and Texans did against the vaunted Jaguars defense.
Here I'll take a look at 3 things the Jaguars need to do in order to avoid the trap!
1. Don't let Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson get going. One of the best combinations of interior defensive lineman in football, Williams and Wilkerson have yet to get it going in 2017. Neither one has recorded a sack and both have been average in run defense. I'm not sure why these two stars haven't been able to have a major impact on games yet this season, but the Jaguars offensive linemen need to make sure they don't allow the breakout to happen on their watch. So far this season the Jaguars pass protection has been really solid. Their only real slip up came against the Titans when Brian Orakpo was able to abuse rookie left tackle Cam Robinson time and time again. The Jaguars offensive line must protect Blake Bortles against these two beasts on the interior.
2. Win the turnover battle. This is the most obvious statement in football, but that doesn't change the validity of it's meaning. Against the Texans and Ravens the Jaguars won the turnover battle by a combined count of 7-0! That's right -- in their two blowout victories the Jaguars didn't turn the ball over at all and they forced an average of 3.5 turnovers per game. In the Jaguars lone loss of 2017 they turned the ball over three times themselves and only stole the ball from the Titans once. In the Jets only win so far, they, of course, won the turnover battle. So, yeah -- the Jaguars need to force more turnovers than the Jets. How can they do that? Stop the Jets rushing attack -- slowing down Bilal Powell and Matt Forte will be key for the Jaguars. They need to get QB Josh McCown into clear passing situations and then take advantage by pressuring him and forcing him to make quick decisions. If the Jaguars defense can do that, they'll be in good shape. On the other side of the ball Bortles just needs to commit one or fewer turnovers for the Jaguars to be in good shape.
3. Commit less penalties! The Jaguars have committed 29 total penalties in 2017 and are tied for second with the most penalties against. They've gifted their opponents 258 yards so far this season. With at least 9 penalties committed in every game the Jaguars are basically giving their opponent over 80 yards per game just in penalties! Obviously, something has to give. In the Jaguars two blowouts the penalties were ignored because the team dominated despite errors. But against the Titans penalties crushed the Jaguars. To consisntely win on the road (or at home) in the NFL the Jaguars need to become a more disciplined team. Is it possible that the Jaguars can win, convincingly even, against the Jets if they commit a bevy of penalties? Yes, but at this point the Jaguars are playing with fire.
So, there you have it. If the Jaguars can do all three of those things they'll be in great shape. The team also needs to avoid a mental letdown. They've done quite a bit of traveling already in 2017. This team needs to be mentally focused and sharp, otherwise they might be feeling like the Dolphins are this week after their matchup with the Jets.
What do you think the Jaguars need to do in order to avoid their first "trap game" in over a half decade? Let us know in the comments below!
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