First and foremost, it’s been quite a while since we could comfortably use the term “trap game” when speaking about a Jacksonville Jaguars opponent, but here we are.
In short, a trap game is a matchup in which a team is expected to beat its opponent, and thus may overlook them come Sunday or not prepare as thoroughly during the practice week.
For the first time since 2007, the Jaguars have a 2-1 record. Doug Marrrone’s team has dominated in the two victories, outscoring opponents 73-14 in the wins. Jacksonville is also favored on the road for the first time since 2011, as the Jaguars will take on the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in Week 4.
The Jaguars should come into the game with a lot of confidence, after destroying the Baltimore Ravens by 37 points in London this past weekend. The defense was dominant, the offensive line played well, Marcedes Lewis looked like a rejuvenated player and Blake Bortles was (dare I say it?) efficient.
So, with a matchup against the lowly New York Jets, it should be a walk in the park for the Jaguars, am I right?
Lee Corso voice: “Not so fast, my friend.”
There are a few reasons why we should be wary.
The Jets were widely considered the worst team in the NFL entering the season and even heading into Week 3. However, New York was able to upset the Miami Dolphins, who were a 5.5-point favorite, at home in the Meadowlands.
The Jets started 0-2, but both of those losses were on road. New York beat Miami soundly, as the final score showed 20-6, but the Jets were up 20-0 until the very last play of the game. The Jets showed that they can beat seemingly more talented teams at home.
The next thing that slightly worries me is that the Jaguars did play in London last week. Previously, Jacksonville has had a bye week each year following play across the pond, but that is not the case in 2017. That is worrisome for two reasons. First, while the Jaguars played very well in London this past Sunday, it takes a lot of energy out of a team and staff to fly 10-plus hours to the UK, play a game, fly more than 10 hours back and then prepare for a new contest on the road a few days later.
Jet lag and fatigue could seriously play into the week of practice for the Jaguars. Keep in mind there is still travel time involved for the team to actually get to East Rutherford, New Jersey. I am also slightly worried that the Jaguars will still be riding high after the demolition derby they put on Baltimore, and will enter the game with a “hangover” of sorts.
I think that exact thing I mentioned above happened to the Jaguars in Week 2. After an utter domination of the Houston Texans in Week 1, and the Jaguars first win against Houston since 2013, the Jags laid an egg against the Tennessee Titans. Jacksonville needs to prove it can win consistently, and not be this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team where it plays well on odd-numbered weeks and poorly in even-numbered weeks. Newsflash, this is an even-numbered week. Three weeks is not a large enough sample size to deem that as a pattern, but again, Jacksonville must win the games it should win to prove that this team is a playoff contender.
One other thing that does not work in Jacksonville’s favor is their lack of success on the road. Counting this season, Jacksonville has won just eight road games since 2011.
The Jaguars have only won two road games in the past three years combined, going 1-7 in each of the last two seasons. Granted, there haven’t been a lot of wins total (24) in that span — but come on... eight?
Here is the thing, though. The Jaguars should beat the Jets. Jacksonville is a much more talented team, and we know what this squad is capable of. The defense is as advertised, the play-calling from Nathaniel Hackett was creative in Week 3 and the Jaguars can control the trenches. If the Jags overlook New York, don’t prepare well enough and aren’t well-conditioned after a long trip across the Atlantic, then the Jets could very well pull off the upset — as they proved capable of doing last Sunday.
This could be a “trap game” for Jacksonville, but I fully expect us to win.