There's no rest for the victory-weary, and the Jets will be trying to snap their first two-game losing streak of the Todd Bowles era with a home win over rejuvenated Jacksonville.
Did we say rejuvenated? The Jaguars are 2-5, aren't they? Well, yes, but they're also coming off their Wembley win over the Bills and their bye week, they're feeling a little friskier with the maturation of second-year QB Blake Bortles, and they're almost as close to a playoff berth as the 4-3 Jets — they're just a half-game off the 3-4 snail's pace being set by the Texans and Colts in the AFC South, while the Jets are now a tiebreaker behind the Raiders in the developing AFC Wild Card race.
As for how the Jaguars view this game, Bortles said, "It's definitely a special opportunity."
Todd Bowles took the stern approach toward his defense but his short sentences also spoke volumes for his team after the loss at Oakland: "It's one game. It's the first time we fell apart like that. We have to come back together. And it can't happen again."
Here are seven more points to consider for Sunday's Jets-Jags game at MetLife Stadium:
1. Fitz's Victory Jag
Somehow after last week's left thumb tear scare, Ryan Fitzpatrick is wrapped and gloved and ready to continue on the Jets' front line. His effectiveness Sunday remains to be seen, but his effectiveness against the Jags is undeniable. He has beaten Jacksonville as a starting quarterback for four different teams (Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tennessee and Houston). Several QBs have prevailed over the same team while wearing four different jerseys, but Elias Sports Bureau reveals that no QB since the 1970 merger has beaten the same opponent as a starter for five different teams.
2. Slowing Ivory
For a while it looked as if Chris Ivory couldn't be stopped. Then the Patriots and Raiders and a cranky hammy slowed him to 58 yards on 32 carries, with 10 of those carries for no gain or minus yards. Now comes the Jaguars defense, led by LBs Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny, who strike an unusual balance — they're 14th in the NFL in rush yards allowed/game, yet No. 1 with 3.52 yards allowed/carry. Perhaps Ivory can regain his traction with assists from healing RB Bilal Powell (ankle, doubtful) and eager-to-debut Stevan Ridley.
- Still Tickin' Despite the Lickin'
It's a war of attrition for Jets wideouts. Brandon Marshall has ankle/toe woes, Eric Decker a lingering knee, Devin Smith a foot. Chris Owusu is on IR, Quincy Enunwa still suspended. Yet the position remains productive, catching 74% of the Jets' passes for 83% of their aerial yardage. Marshall is on pace for franchise-record totals of 114 receptions and 1,568 yards. In the six games Deck's played, he's caught a red zone TD pass in five and gained 94 yards in the sixth. And the Jaguars shouldn't overlook the 5'9" Jeremy Kerley.
4. The Book on Bortles
The Jacksonville QB's completion rate is 55.7%, he's thrown eight INTs to 15 TDs, and he has a fair 82.5 passer rating. In two years his road record as a starter is 0-9. Yet there's confidence brewing in his leadership in JAX. "I think some good strides have been made," he said, and HC Gus Bradley praises his competitiveness, toughness and resolve and says, "Those traits are showing up more consistently." One more thing: Bortles is averaging 7.2 yards per carry as a pro, tied for the best among QBs in 2014-15.
5. Tighten Up
The Jets' D at Oakland, said LB David Harris, "alarms everybody. We know we're not that defense." One way to show it is to set the alarm for some takeaways — after 10 TAs in the first two games, the D has five in the last five, none in the last two. Also, fewer missed tackles. Bowles' MT count was "in the 20s" vs. the Raiders. Finally, make opponents boring again. The Jets are still No. 2 in the NFL in forcing 3-and-outs (30.1% drive rate). The next two foes, Jacksonville (27.7%) and Buffalo (28.9%), are second and first respectively among the worst 3-and-out offenses.
6. Roadhouse Blues
The Green & White, with as many home wins this year (2) as all of last year and a Salute to Service crowd, should be playing in a jumping MetLife Stadium. Jacksonville, meanwhile, has a lot of heavy baggage to unpack for a win in this game. The Black & Teal are working on the NFL's longest road losing streak, 12 games, dating to 2013, during which they've been outscored on average by 29-15. Since 2011 their away record is 5-30, and on the road vs. non-division foes it's 1-21, with the only win coming at Cleveland in '13.
7. London Bridge
The NFL's October London victors meet up in this game. Which Jaguars team will show — the opportunistic team that opened a 27-3 lead on the Bills with two quick defensive scores, the discombobulated team that tied for the largest blown lead this year at 24 points, or the resilient team that still drove to the comeback 34-31 triumph? And can the Jets show their Wembleyness by opening a two-score lead, or any lead, and never losing it? Sunday would be a good day for that knack to return.