The Jaguars enter Week 14 once again searching for a buzz.
The team had gained momentum with a victory over the Tennessee Titans in late November, a victory that followed an overtime loss at 11-1 Houston. The Jaguars had two of their best offensive games of the season those two weeks, scoring 37 and 24 points with quarterback Chad Henne throwing for nearly 600 yards and six touchdowns.
The Jaguars (2-10) this past week lost, 34-18, to the Buffalo Bills, a game in which steady rain and heavy wind limited the passing game while the Bills outrushed the Jaguars 242-50.
The task this week: regroup and begin to use the final four games to set a tone for the offseason and next season.
They'll do that against a New York Jets (5-7) team still fighting for a postseason berth, one that enters the game with uncertainty at quarterback. Still, it reportedly remains unlikely that former Nease High School and University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow will start at the position for the Jets Sunday.
More concerning for the Jaguars than Tebow: regaining the offensive potency and energy the team was establishing before Buffalo.
A focus this week will be on Jaguars second-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts. He was key to the offensive surge, catching 13 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in three games leading to the Buffalo loss. He led the Jaguars with seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown in that game before sustaining a concussion. He is in the team's concussion program and scheduled to be tested Tuesday.
The Jets, after contending for the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2010, have struggled the last two seasons, and after going 8-8 last season they're a long shot for the playoffs this season. Yet, entering the last month, they still have hope, and they enter Sunday fighting for fading playoff hopes. They'll also enter Sunday with the main storyline being quarterback, and as of Tuesday, that situation remains uncertain. Head Coach Rex Ryan pulled starter Mark Sanchez Sunday and backup Greg McElroy led the team to its only touchdown in a 7-6 victory over Arizona. As of Tuesday morning, Ryan had not named a starter, though some reports indicate he and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum want to start Sanchez whereas ownership might prefer McElroy. Tebow also could be an option, though he was inactive last week with injured ribs.
The Jaguars-Jets game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m. will be broadcast regionally on CBS and locally on WETV CBS 47 (Channel 6). Kevin Harlan will call the play-by-play and Solomon Wilcots will add analysis.
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan says
"I've got three quarterbacks I feel good about. I think we're in a lot better situation than probably a lot of teams. . . . I just want to make sure I get all the facts and everything else. It's a big decision. The decision has to be made on what I think gives us the best opportunity to beat Jacksonville."
Early matchup to watch
The matchup to watch may be the media versus Ryan, who will be criticized whatever he does at quarterback, but on the field we'll go with the Jets' defense versus Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne. While the Jets' defense is without cornerback Darrelle Revis and not as dominant as in recent seasons, the unit still ranks No. 10 in the NFL and can give offenses problems with confusing coverages and aggressive blitz schemes. Henne completed 18 of 41 passes in the rain in Buffalo, but had been able to utilize the Jaguars' receivers the previous two weeks in far more favorable conditions. In four starts in 2009-2010 for Miami, Henne went 3-1 against the Jets, throwing six touchdowns with one interception and averaging 193 yards passing despite being sacked 12 times.
Player to watch
Montell Owens, running back. Owens, a seven-year veteran, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection for the Jaguars as a special teams player, but he is a focus this week because of a potential new role on offense. Owens because of injuries to not only Maurice Jones-Drew, but Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele, has a chance to make his second career start – his first at running back—Sunday. With Jones-Drew out and Parmele on injured reserve, Jennings left Sunday's game with a concussion and Owens replaced him with a career-high seven carries for 29 yards. Owens has 112 career yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, but Mularkey said this week he continually has been impressed with Owens when the veteran has had opportunities and said if Jennings and Jones-Drew can't play, Owens will start against the Jets.
What to watch
- Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher last season, could miss a seventh consecutive game with a sprained foot after sustaining the injury on the first play of a loss to Oakland in Week 7. Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said Monday Jones-Drew is very questionable for the Jets game.
- Cornerback Derek Cox likely will practice on a limited basis Wednesday after missing Sunday with a hamstring injury, Mularkey said Monday. Cox at times this season has been one of the NFL's better corners, registering three interceptions, but he has missed four games with injuries and has been limited by injuries in others.
- Look for Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis to get more reps this week. After missing four games with a groin injury, he played about 50 plays against Tennessee on November 24 before playing just eight plays Sunday. Mularkey said Monday he made a mistake not playing Mathis more, and that the veteran will play more the rest of the season and is not being phased out.
- Adding to the uncertainty at the cornerback position, veteran Aaron Ross will be day-to-day with a calf strain. With Cox and Ross limited, the Jaguars' healthy corners aside from Mathis are rookie Mike Harris, second-year veteran Kevin Rutland and recently-signed Antwaun Molden.
- Rookie guard Mike Brewster also enters the week uncertain after sustaining a broken left hand. He returned Sunday after sustaining the injury, and Mukarkey this week said Brewster may be fitted with a cast this week allowing him to play. Veteran Eben Britton would play in his place if Brewster can't play.