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Jags, Jets in high-stakes game


It's a game with genuine playoff implications. Other than Maurice Jones-Drew, who would've ever thought the rebuilding Jaguars would be playing in such a game in mid-November?

The Jaguars face the New York Jets on Sunday in a game of 4-4 teams that will send the winner into playoff contention and the loser into a likely also-ran category. It's just that simple: Win or else.

Heading into the week-10 action, only two wild-card contenders have fewer than four defeats. The Jaguars are a half-game behind 5-4 Houston, but the Jags can pull even with the Texans with a win over the Jets and, of course, the Jaguars currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Houston.

"Each week we have to take it like it's a high-stakes game and it is. Going to New York is big. The more physical team is going to win," Jones-Drew said.

Jones-Drew will be the focus of the league's number two-ranked defense. He's the league's sixth-leading rusher with 737 yards, and leads everybody in rushing touchdowns with 11.

"It's going to be a great one," rookie Jets coach Rex Ryan said of Sunday's game at Giants Stadium. "Like I told reporters here, Jack Del Rio and myself are very similar, except he's really good looking and was a great player. Other than that, we're very similar."

Ryan is a play-loose, play-fast coach renown for a blitzing defense and an ebullient personality. He's already a big hit in New York and will become even more popular if his team plays up to its rankings.

The Jets have the league's number one rush-offense and number two pass-defense. As expected, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez is holding the Jets back as he develops, but Sanchez has had breakout performances, including three that produced passer ratings of 101.1, 107.3 and 100.3. One of the reasons the Jets don't have a better record is that Sanchez has also had two horrific performances that produced eight interceptions and passer ratings of 27.0 and 8.3.

In other words, Sanchez has been up and down, which is how most people would describe the Jaguars' performance this season.

"We found some ways to lose. I think we've given up seven touchdowns when the defense hasn't been on the field and, obviously, it's hard to win when that happens to you," Ryan said.

Special teams allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the Jets' most recent loss to the Dolphins.

The Jets' success is built on a powerful offensive line that has opened huge holes for running back Thomas Jones this year. Jones is the league's eighth-leading rusher with 704 yards.

On defense, Darrelle Revis is a cut-the-field-in-half pass-defender who might be the game's best cornerback. He is assigned to the best receiver on the field and so far this year he has covered and dominated Randy Moss, Andre Johnson and Terrell Owens. Linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris do the heavy lifting.

One of the interesting Jets facts is that even though they are 29th in the league in sacks per pass play, they knocked Tom Brady down 23 times in their win over the Patriots. The Jets would appear to be proof that affecting the quarterback doesn't mean having to sack him.

The Jets are a run-the-ball, defense-first throwback, a style Ryan honed as the Ravens' defensive coordinator in the rugged AFC North, but Sanchez will likely determine how high the Jets reach in his rookie season.

"I think the guy's going to be an outstanding quarterback. I think he already is a good one, but there's no telling how good he can be. I really think he can be special and that's why we traded up to get him," Ryan said.

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