For Jacksonville, last Sunday’s brutal loss at San Diego was far from pretty. The team struggled on both sides of the ball and was far from competitive on the whole, falling 38-13 in the end. Still, though, from an objective point of view, no one should have expected the inferior Jaguars to beat a better Chargers team, not to mention on the road. And while the six turnovers Jacksonville committed might have been hard to watch, they may actually give the Jags reason for hope heading into the weekend, when the Philadelphia Eagles visit EverBank Field for a 4:05 kickoff.
Now, let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting the six turnovers were a good thing in anyway, whatsoever. They should, however, help Jacksonville’s focus in preparation for Philly this Sunday and should also allow the players to feel perhaps less embarrassed about what took place last weekend, as they can at least now ask, “what if we hadn’t committed six turnovers?” and might even still believe, “we can beat anyone as long we protect the football.”
Anyway, to beat Philly this Sunday – which is all that really matters at this point – Jacksonville will need to protect the football and do a whole lot more. Below I take an up-close look at how the two teams match-up, as well as at what Jacksonville needs to accomplish in hopes of victory.
KEYS TO WEEK 3:
On the surface, the 1-1 Jaguars match-up relatively well with the 1-1 Eagles. For starters, Philadelphia’s defense has been putrid this year and is a favorable opponent for just about any team. And Jacksonville should have the luxury of choosing in exactly which manner it attacks the Eagles, as Philly has struggled every bit as much this year defending the run as the pass.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jacksonville’s reeling secondary will get a bit of a break when it faces a middle-of-the-road Ealges passing attack. The same can’t be said for the Jacksonville front seven, however, as they will have their hands full and more with the league’s second-ranked rushing attack, led by quarterback Michael Vick. Now, let’s take a closer look at what all this means.
Ball in Hand:
As mentioned above, Jacksonville should be able to attack the Eagles with both the run and the pass. In the first two weeks of the season, Philly gave up big chunks of rushing yards to backs and units – Ryan Grant/Brandon Jackson/Green Bay and Jahvid Best/Detroit – noticeably inferior to Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguar ground attack. Jacksonville has to yet to really get going on the ground in 2010, though, and can’t afford another average performance against a vulnerable Eagle rush defense.
If we can call Philly’s run defense weak, the same can be said for its pass defense, as both rank 23rd league wide. And though I’ve already acknowledged just how average Jacksonville’s rushing attack has been to date, its passing game has actually been a bit better than expected, and should have its opportunities against a giving Philly secondary. It won’t come easy, though, as Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard has been equally as giving when it’s come to throwing interceptions and will face two dangerous Eagle corners in Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel.
Jacksonville isn’t going to dominate Philly on the ground or in the air; it’s a team simply not at that level. If the Jags play balanced, smart football, however, they should be able to move the ball against the Eagles on a consistent basis. While Philadelphia does have impressive corners to match-up in the passing game, their defense has given opposing quarterbacks way too much time to throw the football, which has created opportunities for opposing backs and receivers alike. Jacksonville is not a pass-first football team by any means, but if the Jags can get Jones-Drew and company going early, they should be able to attack through the air and put some points up on average Eagles defense.
On the Defense:
Above we called Jacksonville’s matchup with Philly favorable, but everything is relative and, similar to most weekends, the Jags will most likely have problems containing their opponent this coming Sunday. Again, relatively speaking, Philadelphia’s passing attack is quite average, especially with Vick getting the start at quarterback. If you can count on one thing this Sunday, however, it’s that Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson will give the Jaguar secondary fits all game long. Simply put, the third-year wideout has way too much speed and savvy for anyone to deal with in the Jacksonville defensive backfield.
The Jags have been passable against the run so far this year, but will have by far their stiffest test this weekend. LeSean McCoy brings both power and speed to the Philly backfield, is coming off a 120-yard, three-touchdown performance, and will be a load for Jacksonville to handle. Stopping McCoy, however, is less than half the battle when it comes to slowing down the Eagles’ ground game. As I already mentioned, Vick will get the starting nod at quarterback for Philly this weekend and, in addition to being a productive runner when his number is called upon, the former Falcon is a genius when it comes to creating with his feet once plays break down. The once-troubled quarterback is basically back to his old self, which means opponents must gameplan as much for him as they do for anyone.
At this point, Philly’s offense is simply too good for Jacksonville to shut down. The Jags can compete, though, and will look to do two things on defense in hopes of winning the game. First, they must contain Vick, a task that is much easier said than done. If this means playing eight men in the box or five down linemen, so be it, but Jacksonville cannot afford to watch No. 7 extend play after play, and drive after drive. Next, Jacksonville has to prevent Jackson from cashing in on the big play, which he’s done in one of two games this year (he caught a 45-yard touchdown pass at Detroit last week). As I already stated above, the Jags don’t have much hope of completely shutting down the former Golden Bear; they must, however, slow him, and this means keeping him underneath Jaguar defensive backs and out of the end zone.
When it’s all Said and Done:
While Jacksonville’s offense is far from explosive, if it can take advantage of average Philly rush and pass defenses, this Sunday’s showdown should turn into an offensive affair. We know the Eagles are going to get their points; Vick and McCoy are explosive out of the backfield, Jackson is a matchup nightmare for any defensive back, and the Jaguars aren’t exactly overpowering defensively. With that said, Jacksonville must play exceptional red zone defense this Sunday, forcing the Eagles to end their inevitable drives with three points rather than seven.
If the Jacksonville D can hold up its end of the bargain, the Jaguar offense will need to produce points on a consistent basis to keep up with even a slowed-down Philadelphia offensive attack. Furthermore, long, extended drives on the ground will not only help the Jags produce necessary points, but will also help keep the Eagle offense off the field, a two-part benefit.
In the end, then, if Jacksonville has any hopes of winning this Sunday, it must play bend-but-don’t-break defense in addition to receiving a clock controlling, A-plus performance from its offense. If both of the aforementioned goals are accomplished, Sunday’s game will come right down to the wire. Unfortunately, though I do expect the Jacksonville defense to put together a respectable performance this Sunday, I’m not convinced the Jaguar offense can score touchdowns at an Eagle-like pace.
Prediction: 31-24, Philadelphia
NEWS AND NOTES:
In roster-related news, the Jaguars signed free-agent quarterback Todd Bouman on Tuesday after placing quarterback Luke McCown on the injured reserve. McCown suffered a knee injury late in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s game against the Chargers.
The 6-2, 226-pound Bouman is in his 11th NFL season and has played in 42 games and made six starts for the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. He spent four weeks with the Jags in 2007 after an injury to Garrard and also spent time in the club’s 2008 and 2009 training camps.
Also, on Wednesday, the club signed rookie linebacker Jacob Cutrera to the 53-man roster and placed rookie return specialist Scotty McGee on the injured reserve.
BEATING THE SPREAD:
Just for kicks, each week I will pick against the spread in my three favorite games, using the opening lines from the USA Today Newspaper as my reference. Feel free to do the same; we can even compete, if you don’t mind losing (Zing!).
Last week, I went a disappointing 1-2, making me 3-3 on the year. Beating the spread can be tough, and there have been numerous times in my life when I’ve lost to the spread and still thought I made a smart bet; it’s like blackjack, where you can wisely hit on 12 and still bust.
Last week, however, looking back, I no longer feel like I picked the three best games on the board. So here’s to hoping I can redeem myself this time around.
Without further ado, then, here are my LOCKS for Week 3:
KANSAS CITY vs. San Francisco, + 1: It may not be a lot, but I’m getting a point with a team I think is going to win its game outright. The Chiefs are playing winning football right now (they are 2-0) and have been extremely opportunistic on defense, a good sign heading into a game against a team I consider somewhat mistake prone. Oh, and did I mention that New Arrowhead stadium just so happens to be among the game’s toughest places to play?
CINCINNATI at Carolina, - 3.5: The Bengals got a huge win last weekend at home against the Ravens and are feeling better about themselves now. As such, I expect Cincinnati to get both its run and pass games going this Sunday. The Panthers, on the other hand, are coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Buccaneers and are starting a rookie at quarterback this weekend in Jimmy Clausen. Enough said.
DETROIT at Minnesota, + 10.5: It’s been sort of lost on most, but the Lions could very easily be 2-0 on the year and are playing much-improved football on both offense and defense. In contrast, Minnesota is struggling mightily right now and is simply giving way too many points Detroit’s way.
Unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got for today. Be sure to check back here on Sunday for game notes and summary. And, until then, be good and keep reading.
Janovitz can be reached at Scott.Janovitz@gmail.com
About the Author
Written by Scott Janovitz