EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — This isn't quite where the
Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Jets expected to be at this point in the
They're both a mediocre 4-4 and know their playoff
chances will be largely affected by what happens Sunday at the Meadowlands.
"It's a must win for both of us," Jets defensive end
Shaun Ellis said.
That's because New York has gone 1-4 since a 3-0 start
that had some dreaming of a deep playoff run. Meanwhile, Jacksonville has been
inconsistent all season, but is in the playoff mix despite being picked to
finish at the bottom of the AFC South.
"We'd like to have a few more wins," Jaguars coach Jack
Del Rio said. "I'm sure they'd like to have a few more wins. We have an
opportunity to start the second half of this season with two teams that would
like to be in a better situation, two teams that very much need to win, so it
ought to be a heck of a game."
The phrase "must win" gets tossed around in the NFL all
the time, but it might actually apply in this instance.
"There's no getting around this," Jets coach Rex Ryan
said. "You might as well admit it, that it is that kind of game. We need to make
sure that we come out on the winning side."
Jaguars quarterback David Garrard said his team has
similar aspirations for this weekend.
"We're going to do our best and execute as well as we can
and let the chips lie where they are," he said. "We're not caught up in the
'that team wins, this team goes this direction.' You still never know how it's
going to play out, but definitely this game for both teams does mean a whole lot
The Jets are coming off a bye week that capped a
disappointing stretch of games that disturbingly resembled last season's
collapse when they lost four of five and missed the playoffs.
"We just want to win," wide receiver Braylon Edwards
said. "We have goals for each game, but at the end of the day all it amounts to
is winning by any means necessary. We're going to go out there and get the job
done. We feel like we can do that, and that's what we will do."
The confidence, despite the struggles, stems from the
performance of the league's top-ranked running game and the NFL's second-ranked
"They're starting to pick it up," Jaguars running back
Maurice Jones-Drew said. "They're playing well. Their defense is playing awesome
right now. As an offense, we have a lot of things we have to take care of with
their blitzing, how they stop the run. Our defense has to control Thomas Jones
and try to contain Mark Sanchez, his receivers and all his toys he has. It's
going to be tough."
Not that it will be any easier for the Jets, who haven't
allowed a 100-yard rusher this season but face a difficult test in Jones-Drew
and the Jaguars' sixth-ranked running game.
"It doesn't mean anything does it?" Jones-Drew said of
the teams' rankings. "That's just how it is sometimes. We have a top-10 offense
and yet we've been shut out. What happens on paper, that's just paper. It's the
team that prepares the best and executes the best on Sunday that's going to
It helps to have an offensive playmaker like Jones-Drew,
who's sixth in the NFL with 737 yards rushing and leads the league with 11 TDs,
including six in the last three games. And that's despite playing behind two
rookies offensive tackles in first-rounder Eugene Monroe and second-rounder Eben
"He's just a tough, competitive, and I say bowling
ball," Ryan said. "He'll probably call me something else. Believe me, that's a
compliment. He keeps those feet going. He's short. He's not small. That's a big
man, a big, powerful man."
After getting gouged for 305 yards rushing at Tennessee
two weeks ago and struggling to pressure quarterbacks all season, the Jaguars
scrapped their 3-4 defensive scheme for a 4-3 alignment and played much better
in a 24-21 win over Kansas City.
"We've got to prepare for both because there's a good
chance we'll see both," Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.
Jacksonville is hoping the shift allows the defense to
get to opposing quarterbacks more because the Jaguars are last in the league
with eight sacks.
"I think it's certainly something we feel we can do
either one based on the opponent and what we think we can do best, much like
what the Jets do," Del Rio said. "They'll get in both looks. They'll play what
looks like a four-man front and others look like a traditional three-man look.
We mix it up as well."
Both Ryan and Del Rio are looking forward to going up
against each other for the first time as head coaches. The two worked together
in Baltimore and helped the Ravens win the 2001 Super Bowl, with Ryan the
defensive line coach and Del Rio the linebackers coach.
"We're going to try to kill each other," Ryan said.
"We'd rather it this way, that both teams are treating this game how important
it is. We both want to get to the playoffs. We both think we have good enough
teams to get there, and we're going to find out."