Jacksonville Jaguars: 5 Keys to Upsetting the New York Jets
This is a statement game for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If the Jaguars lose in convincing fashion, the perception around the league will be that this is the same team we've seen the last several years. They'll be seen as 8-8 waiting to happen, a vanilla team that is limited by its lack of weapons and a defense that can't stop the pass.
While nearly all of the national media believes the New York Jets will clear the nine-point spread offered for Sunday's contest, the Jaguars are capable of pulling off the upset.
For Jacksonville, the difference between a win and a loss on Sunday could mean the difference between blackouts and packed stadiums. With a win, heads are turned. With a loss, people walk away.
So, how do the Jaguars come out of New York 2-0?
Here are my five keys to victory for the Jaguars in Week 2.
Pressure Mark Sanchez
Yes, we're talking to you, Jeremy Mincey.
With Aaron Kampman likely out, Jeremy Mincey must lead an inspired front seven effort to hit Mark Sanchez as often as possible.
The Jaguars have spent money to improve the pass rush, and this is the game in which these efforts must be seen. Matt Roth, Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton have to assist Mincey in collapsing the pocket often enough to make Sanchez uncomfortable in the pocket and force throws.
The Jaguars cannot win without pressure on the quarterback. If they hit and intimidate Sanchez early, he is capable of turning over the football.
They have to do it again.
Don't Give Up Big Plays in the Passing Game
The most frustrating part of last week's win against the Titans was that the Jaguars dominated the game defensively, only to give up an 80-yard touchdown pass and let Tennessee back in the game.
It should have never been close.
The Jaguars secondary has been notoriously awful the past few seasons, and have given up big plays in the passing game to change the entire momentum of games.
With Derek Cox out, Drew Coleman steps in alongside Rashean Mathis at corner against one of the most feared receiving tandems in the league. Jets receivers Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes offer a unique combination of size and speed that the Cowboys had a difficult time stopping last week, and the Jaguars face the same challenge.
Provided that the defensive front seven gets pressure on Sanchez, it then becomes the secondary's responsibility to keep everything in front of them. Sanchez will make some plays and keep the chains moving, but the Jaguars have to make the Jets earn every first down they get.
If the Jaguars give away big plays cheaply in the passing game, they're finished.
While I don't expect the Jaguars to throw it more than 30 times, the much-maligned group of receivers has to make plays when given the opportunity.
Jacksonville's receivers aren't spectacular, and we know that. They are serviceable, at best. But in order for the Jaguars to have a chance on Sunday, they can't have drops.
The Jacksonville receivers don't have to be threatening to provide the offensive balance needed to win the game, they simply have to be reliable. Expect the Jets to stack against the run early, forcing the Jaguars into many third-and-five situations.
Mike Thomas and Jason Hill have to make those plays to keep the offense on the field.
Keep Luke McCown Clean
The Jets love to hit the quarterback as much as their coach loves to hit a buffet line.
However, the Jaguars offensive line has to keep Luke McCown clean to have any chance.
The Jets will be aggressive up front, likely stacking seven or eight men at the line of scrimmage. Out of these formations, expect the Jets to blitz early and often with the intent of disrupting Jacksonville's passing game on third-and-long situations.
The Jaguars must employ a three-step drop to get the ball out of McCown's hands quickly, and the Jaguars offensive line has to hold up between the tackles.
Jacksonville can survive pressure off the edge, but if pressure gets through in front of McCown's face, expect turnovers.
Touchdowns, Not Field Goals
Last week, the Jaguars had four opportunities to put the ball in the end zone.
They succeeded only once.
The cardinal sin for an underdog attempting to pull off an upset is settling for field goals. If the Jaguars expect to win, they have to take advantage of opportunities in the red zone.
To do this, the Jaguars have to mix it up. If Jacksonville comes out in bunch formations and tries to pound Maurice Jones-Drew, Josh Scobee is going to be a busy man. The Jets will simply overload the line of scrimmage and bottle the run.
The Jaguars have to be willing, once inside the 20-yard line, to use three-and-four-wide receiver formations and create gaps in the Jets' front seven.
The Jaguars have to throw the football, or at least give the threat of throwing the football, to keep the Jets defense honest and convert opportunities into touchdowns.