Jets quarterback Sam Darnold talks about how he can improve after the Jets 21-17 loss to the Browns in Cleveland on Sept. 20, 2018.
Andy Vasquez, Staff Writer, @andy_vasquez
JACKSONVILLE — The Jets’ season could be on the verge of spiraling out of control after they let a 14-point lead slip in Cleveland. The Jaguars are trying to prove that they’re one of the best teams in football after a tough loss to Tennessee.
It’s only Week 4, but this game could tell us a lot about what these teams are going to be. Here’s how the Jets and Jags match up.
Jets at Jaguars
- TIAA Bank Field
- Sunday, 1 p.m.
- TV: FOX
- Line: Jaguars by 7.5
What’s at stake
Jets: We’re going to learn a lot about the this team on Sunday. After a bad loss in Cleveland, do they have the character to bounce back against one of the best defenses in football? The Jags have allowed 286.3 yards (fourth-best in the NFL) and 14.7 points-per game (tied for second-best). They’ll make life particularly tough on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who had the worst game of his young career last week. If Darnold can play well enough to lead the Jets to victory, it’ll be a huge boost for the 21-year-old and the Jets. They’ll get out of September at .500 while showing great resilience. Another poor game and it could start to look like the season is slipping away after only four games.
Jaguars: This game is just as big for the Jaguars, who are trying to prove that they’re a legitimate contender despite an ugly home loss to the Titans last week, in which they managed only six points. If the Jags hope to be one of the best teams in the league, and they’re certainly stacked enough on defense to be in the conversation, they need to take care of business against a Jets offense that has been struggling. This is the 13th matchup between the Jets and Jags, with the teams at 6-6. The Jets have won four straight starting with a 2011 playoff win over the Jags.
Jets’ offensive line vs. Jaguars defensive front: The Jags might have the best defensive line in football, led by Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue at defensive end, Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus inside, and with Dante Fowler rotating in as a situational pass rusher. The Jets’ offensive line, which didn’t exactly do a great job against Cleveland, will have to do two things well for the Jets to have a chance in this game: give Darnold time to pass, and help establish the run on early downs. If the Jets get into third-and-long frequently, the Jaguars are going to tee off on Darnold and make it a very bad day for the Jets. The biggest concern will be Campbell coming off the edge.
How they’ll win
Jets: It is difficult to imagine Darnold and the Jets’ offense scoring more than two touchdowns against this defense. And even that is probably a stretch. So the Jets are going to need another big performance from its defense — the same kind it had Week 1 in Detroit. Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles is turnover-prone, so if the defense can make it a tough day for him and take the ball away a couple of times the Jets could be in business. If running back Leonard Fournette does play, the Jets must take care to not let him get in a rhythm. If Fournette starts rolling it will open up the pass game and could make it a bad day for the Jets.
Jaguars: If the Jags’ pass rush can get Darnold flustered, it could put there star cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey in position to make a game-changing interception. But the Jags are still going to need something out of their quarterback. Bortles’ performance against Tennessee — 21 of 34 for 155 yards — was not good enough. If Bortles can build some early confidence and get the Jags out to a lead, it will make life even more difficult for Darnold as the Jets will have to play catchup. But if Bortles struggles, again, and the Jets don’t have to take many risks, this game could be up for grabs.