What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday the Jets entered their home opener winless for 2017. This Sunday, coming off their strong win over Miami, the Green & White will have a lot going for them at MetLife Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For one, celebrated center Kevin Mawae will be inducted into the Ring of Honor. For another, more than 75 alumni are expected to be in attendance as part of Jets Legends Homecoming weekend, including ROH members Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Curtis Martin, Joe Klecko, Emerson Boozer and Wayne Chrebet. And the fans in the "White Out" stands will be rocking, all in an effort to keep the Green & White rolling.
The homefield advantage will be welcome against the Jaguars, feeling frisky after their own hot start. Here are seven points of interest for the game:
1. Blasts from the PastThe Jets have won their last three over Jacksonville to even the series at 6-6, and they're 5-3 at home. Among the highlights were the 34-24 Meadowlands win over the Jaguars in the 1998 playoffs, powered by Martin running behind the Mawae-led O-line. With Martin, Namath and Maynard all receiving their Pro Football Hall of Fame Rings of Excellence in a special pregame tribute and Mawae being honored at halftime, the big names of the past and that rousing win of two decades ago should be inspirational for the Jets as they try to tame the Jags.
- They're the Ones**And "tame" is an appropriate verb, since the Jaguars also enter this game on a high note off of their 44-7 rout of the Ravens in London. They are on the top of the NFL heap in several rankings — first in yards allowed/play, pass defense, sacks and point differential — and they'll be trying to improve to 3-1 for the first time since 2007. The Jets, besides giving their best efforts, wouldn't mind if their latest Florida visitors suffered from a case of "Jag Lag" following their trip back across the pond.
3. Run Defense RespondsAnother Jacksonville strength has been the fifth-ranked running game led by rookie Leonard Fournette, former Jets big bopper Chris Ivory and mobile QB Blake Bortles, whose 6.5 yards/carry is best among all 100-carries-plus NFL quarterbacks since 2014. But the Jets run defense, led by LB Demario Davis in one of his most powerful Jets performances, allowed Miami 30 rushing yards and zero rushing first downs. "We felt we needed to play a lot faster," said DC Kacy Rodgers of the run D's improvement. "We knew we could play better, and they stepped up."
Best Photos from the Series Against Jacksonville
4. Rattling Bortles' CageMuhammad Wilkerson is fighting through a shoulder sprain, but he's not alibiing, nor is Leonard Williams with his sore wrist. Yet with those aching joints and Kony Ealy missing practices due to a personal issue, the D-line faces a challenge in trying to bottle up Bortles. If they and the blitz can get to the Jags QB, it could pay off bigtime. While BB has looked good so far, in his first three NFL seasons, opponents converted 12 of his giveaways into touchdowns (11 INTs, 1 FUM), most in the league. And the Jets haven't had a defensive TD return since 2013.
5. Gotta Run?Josh McCown has sped up his release, he's hit 69.8% of his passes, and he's got a WR corps that has overcome the loss of Quincy Enunwa with the pickup of Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley and Robby Anderson's first big play of '17. Said McC: "There's a lot of good that's happened." But with the Jaguars' No. 28 run defense noticeably behind their pass D, this might be the week to turn Bilal Powell loose, with "committee" help from Matt Forte (if his turf toe allows), rookie Eli McGuire, and former Saints pass-catching RB Travaris Cadet.
6. Tighten UpWatch the tight ends both ways in this one. With Austin Seferian-Jenkins back in action, Jets TEs have 12 catches this year — the most by the position in any three-game span in the last three seasons and already more than the eight TE catches for all of 2015. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have Marcedes Lewis, the venerable 12th-year man who had a crushing 33-yard reception that helped beat the Jets in 2009 and had a three-touchdown explosion last week in London Town.
7. Return QuestionsJeremy Kerley looked decent in returning punts for the Jets for the first time since the 2015 season. But what about kickoffs? Will it be Kerley, listed first on the unofficial depth chart? Rookie ArDarius Stewart, back for Miami's only KO last week? Cadet, who has a career 24.3-yards/return average? It probably doesn't matter, since Jags K Jason Myers is tied for second in the league with 16 touchbacks. And with Chandler Catanzaro (eight TBs) sending his kicks deep as well, most drives after scores seem ticketed to start at the 25.