JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' victory over the Baltimore Ravens and forward to this week's matchup against the New York Jets
1. Reviewing the preview.When previewing Ravens-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to protect the ball, make plays downfield and at least match the Ravens in takeaways. The Jaguars played turnover-free Sunday, and quarterback Blake Bortles coupled an interception-free game with keen decision-making and accuracy. The result? Perhaps his best career performance. Bortles took advantage of the Ravens' focus on running back Leonard Fournette by hitting wide receiver Marqise Lee with a big play early, then using tight end Marcedes Lewis' size advantage to the tune of a career-high three touchdown receptions for Lewis. Finally, the Jaguars did much more Sunday than match Baltimore's takeaways. They registered three turnovers to none for Baltimore and turned all three into touchdowns. That's a formula for a one-sided victory, and the Jaguars' 44-7 victory Sunday was every bit as one-sided as the score indicated.
2. As I saw it.This was a mammoth victory for the Jaguars. They lost to Tennessee in discouraging fashion a week before, and early-season momentum was at stake. This was a game the Jaguars might have lost in recent seasons, when one loss had a tendency to turn into a losing streak. The Jaguars instead dominated Sunday from start to finish for a victory that not only renewed confidence earned with a Week 1 victory over Houston, but kept them in a first-place tie in the AFC South. A loss would have made Week 1 seem like a fluke. Instead, this team has momentum and a real belief that what lies ahead could be better than anything this team experienced in a long time.
3. Looking ahead, briefly.Next up for the Jaguars: the New York Jets, a team picked by many to struggle mightily throughout the season. The Jets started 0-2 before surprising unbeaten Miami in convincing fashion Sunday. This is another big game for the Jaguars, and another real opportunity to remain in first place early in the season. The Jets have the capability to win – as evidenced by the victory over the Dolphins. Still, if the Jaguars play to the level they played in Weeks 1 and 3 – particularly on defense – this is another winnable game. And it's the sort of game a young, ascending team needs to win to maintain a growing belief in itself.
1. Reviewing the preview.I must say I nailed this week, which either means I am really good in my 24th season covering the league OR this team is so easy to identify anyone can do it. I'm hoping for the former but it's probably the latter. Everyone knew Baltimore was an attacking defense that made plays on the ball; the same crowd also knew Bortles' turnover history and found the matchup troubling. Bortles, of course, looked as good in a game as he has since the Jaguars drafted him. Precise, accurate, confident in the pocket and fully in control of the offense – that is what a franchise quarterback is supposed to do. I wrote that in the absence of the true down-the-field receiver, the Jaguars needed to push the ball to their tight ends in the middle of the defense. They used tight end Marcedes Lewis to create mismatches and score touchdowns. Keep feeding Lewis the ball in the red zone; he can do what no one else on your team can do: elevate above the coverage for the fade and the lob.
2. As I saw it.The Jaguars' defense is top shelf when defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is involved – and he was involved early in the game in London. His explosiveness off the edge sets up Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson; one of the two is going to be one-on-one, and both were powerful against the Ravens. Combine that with what looks already to be the NFL's best pair of cornerbacks and you have everything you need to shut down the opponent. I mean, which of the Jets receivers is going to cause a problem for either of these guys? Any doubt both are up for the challenge of Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh or Sammy Watkins when the Rams come to town? Exactly. When you have a pair of incredibly talented and even more confident guys out there, you can let it rip up front. The Jaguars' defense is top shelf and getting better with linebacker Myles Jack starting to look like a Terminator in the middle hitting everything that moves.
3. Looking ahead, briefly.The Jets are coming off their breakout game of the season with an impressive victory over a Miami team that has playoff aspirations. Still, this week is all about the Jaguars, who are the more-talented team heading into the sort of "should-win" road game they haven't played around here in some time. Josh McCown is a journeyman quarterback and the Jets don't have the kind of receivers that will seriously challenge the Jaguars. I expect the defense to win. The question is if the offense can play again as it did against Baltimore. There is serious talent on the Jets' defense up front with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. First-round pick Jamal Adams is already making a name for himself in the secondary and linebacker Darron Lee looks like Jack flying to the football. Bortles is going to have to step into the breach again this week and open up the running lanes with the kind of precise, accurate passes he distributed in London.