Jags vs. Jets Preview
East Rutherford, NJ - An impressive start made the New York Jets one of the biggest surprises this season.
Losing four of five with a struggling Mark Sanchez at quarterback has dropped them to .500 and tempered their brash confidence.
The Jets emerge from their bye week looking to get off to a strong start to the second half of their season Sunday against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, another .500 club trying to show improvement.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Jets -7 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 63% of bets for this game have been placed on the Jet -7 (View NFL bet percentages).
New York (4-4) got off to a surprising 3-0 start to the season behind strong play from Sanchez and its revamped defense under new coach Rex Ryan. That surge - which included a 16-9 upset of New England in Week 2 - appeared to make the Jets a contender in the AFC East. However, dropping four of their next five has left them two games back of the division-leading Patriots.
They entered the bye week following a 30-25 loss to Miami on Nov. 1, getting swept in the season series.
"We're on a great football team," Sanchez said. "Our record doesn't show the type of players we have, the kind of people we have in this locker room and the kind of coaching we have."
Sanchez, who turned 23 Wednesday, was solid in the first three games, accumulating 606 passing yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn't nearly as effective in the next five, completing 49.6 percent of his passes for 837 yards with four TDs and eight picks, five coming in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Oct. 18. He ran for a score in each of the last two games and went 20 for 35 for 265 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins in Week 8.
In an effort to continue his development, Sanchez spent the bye week watching video and when he'd see an errant throw, a missed read or poor footwork, he wanted to run out onto the field and redo the play.
"Man, I know that read," Sanchez said of watching the game film. "I know how to take a seven-step drop, reset, look at my first progression, look at the second progression, and just drill it down the middle of the field. I can do that."
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, acquired in a trade with Cleveland on Oct. 7, thinks the difference in the Jets' play is obvious.
"The only thing that really changed - it looked like they were having a lot of fun," said Edwards, who has 13 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns in four games for New York. "Those first three games, they came out on a mission to prove, 'We are somebody. Everybody counted the Jets out; we're going to show you guys.'"
Part of that perceived fun may have stemmed from the defense, which has developed a boisterous attitude reminiscent of coach Ryan's intimidating defense in Baltimore, where he spent the previous 10 seasons. The unit has backed its trash-talk, ranking second in the league to its Meadowlands co-tenant, the New York Giants. However, Ryan thinks the defense can do more to help the team, even score points.
"We need to start scoring on defense," Ryan said of the unit, which hasn't scored a TD while watching opponents return two fumbles and an interception for scores. "We need to start getting the takeaways and start scoring when we get them."
The Jaguars (4-4), losers of three of four road games, are looking to get after Sanchez, and their defensive changes could help them accomplish that after they beat Kansas City 24-21 last week.
Coach Jack Del Rio switched to a 4-3 defense against the Chiefs after the 3-4 proved to be ineffective. The unit, which was called "insulting, ugly and embarrassing" by Del Rio after a 30-13 loss at Tennessee on Nov. 1, turned in its best performance of the season against Kansas City, allowing 301 yards - only 60 on the ground - while recording three sacks.
Jacksonville's eight sacks are the fewest in the NFL.
"We're going to continue to scratch around and settle on things we think our guys can do best," Del Rio said. "I feel like our guys were excited about what we did. Obviously, we had a little success and want to build on that.
"I feel like right now we can do either, but I think our plans are not to tinker and go back and forth."
While the defense is struggling for an identity, the offense is centered around running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 737 rushing yards with a league-leading 11 touchdowns.
Jones-Drew totaled 97 yards on 29 carries last week, giving him 407 yards with a 5.8 average-per-carry and six TDs.
Jacksonville has won five of seven meetings with the Jets, including all three at the Meadowlands. The Jaguars took the last matchup there 26-20 on Sept. 25, 2005, and beat New York again at home 41-0 on Oct. 8, 2006.
Posted: 11/11/09 11:35PM ET