New York Jets (1-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)
The Jets got embarrassed at home by the Patriots and their defense last week, managing just a 22.64% first down rate in a 33-0 shutout loss, but that wasn’t really a surprise. The Jets and their offense looked good against the Cowboys the previous week in Sam Darnold’s return from illness, but the Patriots have a juggernaut defense (23.10% first down rate allowed) that can eat young quarterbacks alive and the Jets have issues on offense far beyond the quarterback position.
Outside of running back Le’Veon Bell, the Jets may not have a single above average starter on their entire offense and running back is not one of the more valuable positions. They had a 42.59% first down rate against the Cowboys, but just a 27.27% first down rate in Darnold’s first start of the season at home against the Bills before his illness and a pathetic 18.01% first down rate in 3 games in his absence. A good quarterback can mask a lot of other flaws, but Darnold is still young and has yet to consistently resemble the player he was against the Cowboys, especially against tougher defenses.
Fortunately, Darnold gets a much easier matchup this week in Jacksonville against a Jaguars defense that is not close to what it was in 2017. With Jalen Ramsey gone and Marcell Dareus on injured reserve, the Jaguars have just four of their top-14 in snaps played remaining from that dominant 2017 defense and rank 14th in first down rate allowed at 35.67%. Offensively, as much as sixth round rookie Gardner Minshew has gotten hype, they rank just 26th in first round rate at 32.43% and Minshew seems to be regressing weekly.
The Jaguars are also in a much worse spot than the Jets this week. While the Jets should be fully focused with a trip to Miami on deck, the Jaguars have a much bigger game next week in London against the division leading Texans. Favorites are just 68-30 ATS since 2016 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. Earlier this week I thought I would be making a big play on the Jets at +6, with the line shifting from +4 on the early line as a result of the Jets’ blowout loss, but I don’t like them nearly as much without linebacker CJ Mosley, who is out with injury. His absence only shifted this line up to 6.5 and I would need a full touchdown to bet the Jets without him. They’re still the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but unless the line shifts to 7 this is a low confidence pick.
Sunday Update: +7 has showed up Sunday morning, so I am putting a small bet on the Jets. This line is too high for an underwhelming Jaguars team that is in a bad spot.
Jacksonville Jaguars 20 New York Jets 16
Pick against the spread: NY Jets +7