Fearless Prediction: Jaguars (4-4) at Jets (4-4)

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Game Snapshot

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg, Dan Fouts)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The team best able to control the clock between two very run-dependent offenses will tell the story. The Jaguars will hand the ball to RB Maurice Jones-Drew early and often and hope he can slow the Jets' heavy blitzing scheme. Meanwhile, the Jets will rely on Thomas Jones and Shonn Green to help protect rookie QB Mark Sanchez. The difference is that while the Jets are solid in the secondary, the Jaguars don't rush the passer well and their porous pass defense is an area New York will need Sanchez to exploit at some point. Need to know: Including games against the Giants and a 1998 playoff loss to the Jets, the Jaguars are 2-5 all-time at The Meadowlands. ... Jacksonville has been outscored 71-13 in its past two road games.

Personnel News

  • DT John Henderson, who practiced Wednesday, missed practice Thursday with an ankle injury. The Jaguars didn't announce when he suffered the injury but he was seen wearing a boot. The team will update his status Friday.
  • RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who practiced Wednesday, was limited in practice Thursday with a knee injury, but he's expected to play.
  • S Gerald Alexander was limited in practice for the second consecutive day Thursday with a shoulder injury.
  • TE Ernest Wilford missed practice for the second consecutive day Thursday with an ankle injury.
  • QB David Garrard, who has just one touchdown pass in the last four games, needs a big game if the Jaguars are to upset the Jets.
  • RT Damien Woody, who has battled knee and foot woes the last few weeks, practiced Thursday after being limited in practice Wednesday because of a problem with his lower back.
  • QB Erik Ainge likely will be the third quarterback for the rest of the season, now that Kellen Clemens is entrenched at No. 2, especially because he now is handling holds for placekicks.
  • CB Lito Sheppard (quadriceps) has missed five of the last six games but will play this week. He has practiced full both days this week. But his snaps against Jacksonville will be somewhat limited to avoid another relapse.
  • WR Brad Smith (quadriceps) was limited in practice Thursday, but is making steady improvement. Coach Rex Ryan said Smith will play Sunday.
  • LB Vernon Gholston, who has been relegated to a reserve role after starting the first four games in the absence of the suspended Calvin Pace, missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury suffered during a walkthrough Monday on the Jets' first day back from their bye week. His status for Sunday is uncertain, but it's looking more likely that he will not play.

Inside the Camps

Jaguars: Quarterback David Garrard is going to have something of a homecoming Sunday when the Jaguars go to the Meadowlands to face the New York Jets. But Garrard, who grew up in the New Jersey area rooting for the Giants, can't expect a warm welcome. That's because the blitz-happy Jets are out to hit the quarterback early and often. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said on third downs when opponents need 6 to 9 yards to gain a first down, the Jets' defense has blitzed 76 percent of the time compared to the estimated NFL average of 40 percent. So three of every four times in third-and-long, the Jaguars expect extra pressure. How the Jaguars handle the blitz will tell a lot about their ability to handle the Jets' defense, which is ranked second in the league. "It's still a business and time to play," Garrard said. "I won't get caught up in any sentimental things as far as my childhood." Meanwhile, the Jaguars, who ranked 20th in total offense last year, are ninth this season. Although Koetter predicted earlier this season that the Jaguars would have a top-10 offense, he said, "It really doesn't matter." He added, "What matters is your won-lost record, and we've got a lot of tough games in front of us, especially this week. I'd rather be 32nd in offense and 8-0 than first in offense on 4-4." Another Koetter goal is to get more points. Entering this week, the Jaguars are 21st in the league in scoring. "Our goal is to always score touchdowns in the red zone," he said. One key to the offense is Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 11 touchdowns and that's not just from getting the ball a lot. Koetter said that Jones-Drew has a knack for scoring, "more than any guy I've ever been around." Jones-Drew shared the credit with his teammates for blocking and for the coaching of running backs coach Kennedy Pola. "It really comes down to understanding where the defense fits and Coach Pola does a good job of teaching that," he said. "If a guy is not where he's supposed to be, I try to fit in there." Jets: The first time the Jets faced Miami's Wildcat formation last month, they had plenty of difficulty fighting off blocks and making sure tackles. But New York cleaned up those issues the second time, although it still couldn't beat the Dolphins. The Jets must be sound again defensively in those areas Sunday when they match up with 5-foot-7 Jacksonville dynamo Maurice Jones-Drew, who leads the NFL with 11 touchdowns, all rushing. He's sixth in the AFC in rushing with 737 yards, averaging 5.1 yards a carry. Jones-Drew was limited in practice Thursday with a knee problem, but will play. "He's every bit as advertised," Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Thursday. "He's a special back. ... It's easy to say, that you make sure you set the edges on him ... and make sure the second and third guy in (to make the tackle) never relax around the pile." The equally diminutive Danny Woodhead, a prolific college rusher at Division II Chadron (Neb.) State, has been imitating Jones-Drew on the scout team this week. Pettine noted that it can be difficult for taller defenders to tackle someone with such a low center of gravity as Jones-Drew. "We're fortunate to have a guy like Danny Woodhead in practice that can simulate that," Pettine said. "He's a versatile enough athlete that he can be the Wes Welker or (Julian) Edelman type in Week 2 (before the New England game) and then change hats and give us a legit look at tailback, at least from a height standpoint. Obviously, Jones-Drew is much more powerful, lower-body wise." Coach Rex Ryan noted that the 208-pound Jones-Drew "is short. He's not small. That's a big man, a big, powerful man. He's low to the ground (and) has great balance. When you think he's down, he's still up. We've got to make sure we get him on the ground. We've got to have more than one guy on him." "You've got to bend" if you're taller, Pettine said. "It is different for those guys. It's not like they're taking on the taller backs like Chris Johnson or Larry Johnson that's up over 6 feet. It's something that we're going to have to deal with." And how they deal with it will go a long way toward determining the winner. "I don't know if you can stop him, you've just got to contain him," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "He's a great back. He causes a lot of problems for the defense. He'll cut that run and he can go anywhere. If the play is designed to go right, he can go left. He's very smart. You have to gang-tackle him. He has a low center of gravity and keeps his feet moving. It's a tough challenge and I think we're up for the challenge. We'll have to just rally to him and everyone just swarm-tackles him." PREDICTION: Jets 23-19

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