Even the Cleveland Browns can beat the New York Jets.
OK, that’s not entirely fair. Few thought this Cleveland team was as bad as its 1-31 cumulative record the last two seasons. Still, it’s a stain on Gang Green’s young season to be the team that finally lost to the Browns, 21-17, last Thursday.
But that’s all optics. The only thing that matters is the standings, and it’s not too late for the Jets to improve upon their 1-2 start. To do so this weekend, and avoid a three-game skid, they will have their hands full with a visit to the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1).
Here’s a look at three keys to the matchup.
In the running
The Achilles’ heel of the Jaguars remains their vulnerability against the run — particularly to home-run threats. The Giants’ Saquon Barkley memorably broke off a 68-yard score in their Week 1 loss to Jacksonville.
While not as highly touted as the Giants’ rookie, Isaiah Crowell brings big-play potential to every carry. In each of the past three seasons, he has posted a run of at least 50 yards, and his season-high against the Detroit Lions in Week 1 went for 62.
If the Jets pull off the upset in Florida, Crowell is the leading pregame candidate for player of the game.
Jacksonville’s defense can be ferocious to even elite passers — just ask Tom Brady and the New England Patriots — so rookie Sam Darnold is bound to have his hands full with the Jags.
Darnold must contend with the No. 3 passing defense in football, albeit one that has yet to create many turnovers. That is to say: Even if the first-year quarterback makes few big mistakes, the Jets face an uphill climb to advance the football.
Among the league’s elite teams, Jacksonville’s quarterback, Blake Bortles, is the most erratic quarterback.
Two weeks ago, he torched the defending AFC champion Patriots for 376 yards and four touchdowns in a convincing victory. Last week, he failed to complete a pass of more than 20 yards or guide his team into the end zone in a 9-6 loss to the division rival Tennessee Titans.
Which version of Bortles shows up can have a great effect on the outcome, so the Jets’ skilled secondary must swarm Jacksonville’s rather ordinary receivers and lure out bad Bortles.
Jaguars 24, Jets 10