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Jaguars aim to ride momentum vs. Jets
Of all the surprising Week 3 outcomes in the NFL, two of the most improbable performances were blowout victories from the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.
Both teams look to carry that momentum into Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium.
Jacksonville beat the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 in London in what was the Jaguars' largest margin of victory in 10 years. And the Jets nearly earned their first shutout in eight seasons, dominating the Miami Dolphins, 20-6.
The Jaguars, who are 2-1 for the first time since 2007, are favored on the road for the first time since they played the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 with Curtis Painter filling in for the injured Peyton Manning.
"Jacksonville's very talented. They get after you up front on defense," Jets head coach Todd Bowles said in a radio interview earlier this week. "They have a very athletic secondary and fast linebackers. And, offensively, obviously with (rookie Leonard) Fournette and (former Jet Chris) Ivory, they can pound the ball. And they have big receivers in (Marqise) Lee and (Allen) Hurns, and (Blake) Bortles played well. They've been playing well as a group, and they're coming into their own. So it's gonna be a tough game."
The maturation of the 25-year-old Bortles has been one of the more surprising developments of the early season, as he has six touchdowns and two interceptions. He won for only the third time on the road in 23 tries in Week 1 against the Houston Texans. Coming into the season, the former third overall pick had 11 career wins and as many pick-sixes thrown.
His play and an aggressive secondary led by corners A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, are big reasons why Jacksonville is plus-5 in turnover differential, which is second in the league behind Detroit (plus-6).
"The biggest thing with Blake is probably psychological. I think mentally, him understanding that we're only going as far as he takes us," said tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is in his 12th season with the Jaguars and caught three of Bortles' four touchdown passes against the Ravens.
"If you're fortunate enough to play in this league a long time, you're going to have some bad games, but it's how you bounce back from it."
Bouncing back was something the Jets did beautifully on Sunday after some were pegging them for a winless season. The defense had two turnovers (both Terrence Brooks interceptions) and held Miami's Jay Ajayi to 16 yards and 11 carries, while the offense got another efficient game from Josh McCown and a 69-yard touchdown to Robby Anderson.
New York will face a potent Jaguars pass rush that leads the league with 13 sacks, including 4 1/2 from two-time Pro Bowler Calais Campbell.
"We know if they make us one-dimensional and we've gotta throw the ball, we're gonna have our hands full," Bowles said Wednesday.
Bowles' counterpart, Doug Marrone, is in his first full season as head coach of the Jaguars after he served as interim coach last year when Gus Bradley was fired. Marrone is a New York native and a former offensive line coach for the Jets from 2002-05. He interviewed for the vacant Jets head coaching seat that eventually went to Bowles in January 2015.
Marrone was thought to be the favorite for the job, but his interview with owner Woody Johnson reportedly did not go smoothly. Furthermore, Marrone is very good friends with Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, who was hired at the same time as Bowles. Marrone eventually landed with the Jaguars as the offensive line coach.
"I've been up for a lot of jobs. I just look at it as, when you don't get a job, they're not the person you're looking for, which actually works out better," Marrone said. "You don't want to go there and say things or do things you're just going to say to get the job."
Updated September 28, 2017