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Testy Jets focused on Jaguars after two-game skid

Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets throws a pass

Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets throws a pass in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Jets' hot start feels like a distant memory.

After seven games, people are questioning their legitimacy.

Is their defense the real deal? Is an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick (torn thumb ligaments) a better quarterback option than a healthy, two-handed Geno Smith? Is coach Todd Bowles capable of turning the season around?

Fast starts are nice, but playoff berths are forged in November. And with the Jets at 4-3, adding wins is the only thing that matters now.

"You felt it," right guard Willie Colon said Friday of the heightened level of focus in practice. "Guys understand the situation we're in. The urgency's high."

After losing in New England and Oakland, the Jets find themselves at a key juncture of their season. A two-game skid is one thing, but the assortment of injuries to key starters is another form of adversity they must find a way to overcome.

Right now, it's too early to watch the standings, Bowles said. But at some point very soon, to reach the playoffs, his team is going to have to make a run. "I would say after Week 12, maybe," he said of checking the standings. "Right now, you just have to play."

Bowles noted that the team practiced "with a little more urgency" this past week, adding that the players practiced in pads for the first time in 21/2 weeks on Wednesday in an attempt to address their poor tackling against the Raiders.

Practice performance isn't always an indication of game-day behavior, but the Jets did practice "with a chip on our shoulder," Bowles said. "It was a setback last week," he added. " . . . It didn't shake the confidence any."

The Jets are fortunate that five of their next six games are at MetLife Stadium. The bad news? They'll play two games in five days this week, with the return of former coach Rex Ryan for Thursday night's much-hyped showdown with the Bills (3-4).

Complicating matters for the Jets are mounting injuries. Starting safety Calvin Pryor (high ankle sprain) will miss his second straight game; No. 2 running back Bilal Powell (ankle) is doubtful for Sunday's game and receiver Brandon Marshall (toe/ankle), cornerback Buster Skrine (shoulder/hand) and Colon (knee) are all questionable. Center Nick Mangold still is nursing a neck injury and it's unclear how Fitzpatrick will fare wearing a glove to protect his injured left thumb.

Meanwhile, the 2-5 Jaguars will be fresh coming off a bye week. They may not be as talented as the Raiders, but they can be dangerous.

Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey highlighted Jacksonville's surprising quickness on defense and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers keyed in on the Jaguars' young duo of Allen Hurns (31 catches, 513 yards, five touchdowns) and Allen Robinson (34 catches, 586 yards, six TDs).

"They have a really, really outstanding pair of receivers," said Rodgers, whose son Kacy played at Miami with Hurns.

Cornerback Darrelle Revis said Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles has "one of the strongest arms in the league. He can make all the throws."

So it's no surprise the Jets aren't taking the struggling Jags lightly.

"Offensively, I would say they have two good receivers," Bowles said. "They have a really good quarterback that can move with his feet in the pocket. Obviously, the running game is strong with [T.J.] Yeldon and they have a slew of tight ends that can block and get open in the passing game. They are a pretty complete team."


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