Throughout the season, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Olivia Landis and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What is the Jets' most favorable matchup vs. Jaguars?
EA: The Jaguars are last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, converting just 33.3 percent of the time with touchdowns. So that's something to keep our eye on but the Jets defense is tied for 28th in the red zone (66.7%), so you can't point to that as an advantage. Then there is the fact that the Jags are 3-0 when forcing a turnover and 0-4 when not having a takeaway. As far as turnover differential, the Jets are a -6 the past two games with Sam Darnold back in the lineup. Turnovers will be huge, but you certainly can't point to an advantage there. Despite having a shuffled offensive line, I like Le'Veon Bell against the banged-up Jacksonville linebackers. Bell had his best statistical ground game as a Jet last week and the Jaguars haven't always been great in their gaps. Bell also has 29 receptions, which ranks third in the AFC, and he should be a valuable asset for Sam Darnold out of the backfield.
EG: While the Jaguars are thin at linebacker, I think the Jets can take advantage of Jacksonville's secondary. Statistically, the Jags are solid against the pass, allowing an average of 243.9 yards per game through the air, which ranks No. 17 in the NFL. However, the unit has is prone to letting up the big play, as they've allowed the third-most 20-plus- (28) and 40-plus-yard receptions (7).
The Jets have a deep threat of their own in Robby Anderson, who connected with QB Sam Darnold on a 92-yard TD against the Cowboys in Week 6. In his four-year career, Anderson has totaled 40 catches of at least 20 yards and 10 of at least 40. Additionally, the Jags have held a receiver to under 85 yards just once (Week 2) in their seven games. While Darnold struggled last year in Duval (17-for-34, 1 TD, 3 INT) and last Monday night against the Patriots, I believe the Jets have the advantage under center and I'm looking for the second-year signal-caller to take advantage of the Jags' secondary.
OL: The Jets' run defense has been the staple of the unit this season. As LB Brandon Copeland said last week, "You have to emphasize stopping the run first and foremost because if you don't do that, you're setting yourself up for a long day." The Green and White's defense is ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (92.2) and second in yards per carry (3.3), and a good performance against the run will be a key to success Sunday. The challenge ahead is tricky, though, because RB Leonard Fournette — who is the centerpiece of the Jags offense — is ranked second in the league in rushing with 715 yards and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. With a young rookie QB in Gardner Minshew, this team leans heavily on the run, ranking fifth in rushing yards per game (140.1). Last week, the Jets limited the Patriots to just 74 rushing yards. If they can contain Fournette in Duval, it'll give them a better chance to claim their first road victory in 2019.
RL: The best part of the Jets' scrimmage game has been their run defense, which is 11th in the NFL rush yards allowed/game and second in yards allowed/carry (3.25) and is coming off a strong game playing at and behind the line against the Patriots rushers (more on that Saturday on Inside the Numbers). Holding Leonard Fournette in check is no sure bet, but several good run defenses, most recently the Saints two games ago, have kept him from going off. If the Jets can do that, they'll have their best chance to get after rookie QB Gardner Minshew.
If that works for the Green & White, the best thing for the offense to do its part would be for Sam Darnold to protect the ball as well as the Jets had been. Before New England, the Jets had a plus-1 turnover margin, 12th in the league. Before Jacksonville's win at winless Cincinnati, the Jaguars were minus-5, tied for 27th. Protect the ball and hand it off to Le'Veon Bell could be the ticket to getting out of J-Ville with a much-needed road W.