The Sports Xchange
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) at New York Jets (4-3)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. – TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl
*Keys to the game: Depending on who was counting, the Jets missed at least 19 tackles during last week’s loss at Oakland. What started out as a potential dominating defense has taken a significant step back, mostly through sloppy play the Jaguars will attempt to exploit by leaning on rookie RB T.J. Yeldon to set the table. QB Blake Bortles finally has dependable weapons in WRs Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns with TE Julius Thomas just getting fully up to speed in the offense. But Bortles is still under intense heat whenever pinned in an obvious passing situation and makes too many questionable decisions under pressure that costs Jacksonville games.
The Jets will start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has ligament damage in his left non-throwing hand, if only because backup Geno Smith suffered rib and shoulder injuries in relief last week. The Jaguars are clearly more vulnerable in pass defense – they allow only 3.5 yards per carry – but the Jets need a strong effort from RB Chris Ivory to provide a physical presence and keep Fitzpatrick out of dangerous down-and-distances. Fitzpatrick is essentially one-handed, and that one hand is a bit tied with WRs Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall banged up and very little healthy depth behind them.
*Matchup to watch – Jaguars NT Roy Miller vs. C Nick Mangold/Wesley Johnson: Mangold appears likely to miss his second consecutive game with a neck injury and Ivory was held to 17 yards on 15 carries last week. Miller is a strong 6-2, 320-pounder and the centerpiece of Jacksonville’s better-than-advertised run defense.
*Player spotlight – Jets SS Marcus Williams: The converted safety was part of the tackling problems in Oakland when he replaced injured Calvin Pryor (ankle) who still wasn’t practicing midweek. Ss Rontez Miles and Dion Bailey could also figure into the mix.
*Fast facts: Bortles has thrown multiple touchdown passes in three consecutive games. … This will be the eighth time Fitzpatrick has played the Jaguars, and with his fifth different team. He has faced them previously while playing for the Bengals, Bills, Titans and Texans.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The Jaguars are coming off a bye, while the Jets are beat up physically on offense and mentally on defense. But there remains enough of a gap between the talent levels on the two teams and the Jets escape with a much-needed win as long as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick gets some consistent help from the run game.
*Our pick: Jets 20-17.