Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Detroit Lions: Friday Fact or Fiction

Aug 28, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) runs away from Detroit Lions defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker (93) in the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been horrendous on the road in 2016 and there’s little to point to in looking for a potential victory this week at Detroit against the Lions.

It’s been a rough week for the Jacksonville Jaguars, especially linebacker Telvin Smith who had to deal with the sudden loss of his brother and the birth of his child within a matter of days. He’s back with the team, but you wouldn’t fault him for focusing on family right now and staying off the field

Back at Jacksonville, the Jaguars are preparing to fly to Detroit and salvage some respectability out of a disastrous season. Effectively out of playoff contention with a 2-7 record, Gus Bradley is acutely aware of his precarious status as head coach. Barring an improbable 7 game winning streak, he is likely fired at the end of the year. That makes evaluating the talent on the roster a tough proposition because the players aren’t dumb – they know they are playing for a lame duck head coach and that there are going to be sweeping changes up and down the front office, coaching staff, and roster at the end of the year.

With such a distraction, it seems impossible that the Jaguars can go to Detroit and beat a calm and composed Lions squad. Matthew Stafford has looked like an elite quarterback this year and his heady play in the 4th quarter has guided the Lions to some exciting 4th quarter/overtime victories. The Lions know how to win and the Jaguars don’t – it might be as simple as that.

So what’s going to actually happen when the Jaguars travel to the motor city on Sunday and face a team that has a ton of confidence right now? Will they play well or continue to embarrassing themselves? Click ahead to see my “rock solid” predictions:

Dec 18, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars fan holds up a sign that says “All I Want for Christmas is a Jags Win.” during the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars will lead at some point in the contest: FACT

The Jaguars have a tendency to start slow but they also have an absolutely absurd stat when it comes to holding a lead – the Jaguars haven’t had one in 4 weeks. They barely led in the Chicago game that they won, and they almost blew it in their other win against Indianapolis.

Fear not, as the Jaguars will take the ball first on Sunday, drive down the field, and settle for a Jason Myers field goal to take a resounding 3-0 lead.

Will they keep that lead? Probably not. But technically it’s a lead and this prediction will be vindicated!

John Oehser over at Jaguars.com emphasized why a lead is so vital for the Jaguars:

When you’re trailing in all games, you’re not going to get many opportunities to rush the passer. When you don’t have a chance to rush the passer, you’re not going to pressure the quarterback. When you’re not pressuring the quarterback, you’re not forcing the quarterback to make mistakes … and so on and so on and so on …

The Jacksonville pass rush has been bad this year but I honestly don’t know how much talent the group has because they just haven’t had that many opportunities. Teams don’t need to put themselves in obvious passing situations against the Jaguars because they are either leading by a significant margin or they’re running the ball effectively. Maybe having a lead, even as small as 3, will give the pass rush group a few more chances. Probably not though.

Oct 30, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Theo Riddick will score a touchdown: FACT

Theo Riddick is a dynamic pass catching back who seemingly always makes one or two plays a game. He’s exactly the type of player the Jaguars struggle against because he’s non-traditional and he serves as an enormous mismatch against linebackers.

Can’t you see it now? The Lions in a tough 3-and-long, Stafford drops back and dumps it off to Riddick who eludes a hapless Paul Posluszny in open space and takes it the distance for a touchdown.

While I would hope the Jaguar coaching staff would be prescient enough to play Myles Jack more in a game where they face a dynamic running back and an uber-athletic tight end (Eric Ebron), I doubt the team will make drastic changes to a defense that has been “working.”

I think the Jaguars will actually do a decent job containing Riddick as a traditional back running from the I-formation, but I don’t they they have the scheme or speed to cover him out of the backfield or when he splits out wide. Riddick is the best pass catching back in the NFL and the Jaguars will see why on Sunday.

Nov 13, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) got rid of the ball while taking a hit from Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Myles Jack (44) during the second quarter of a football game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Myles Jack will play more than 20 snaps at linebacker: FICTION

To piggy back off the last prediction, it would behoove the Jaguars to play their insanely athletic and rangy second round pick some more in a lost season to see how good he can be. I mean, he did a pretty good job last week saving a score when he freaking walked down Lamar Miller on what should have been a breakaway touchdown run.

Myles Jack is good, and his lack of playing time is just another example of the historical ineptness of this coaching staff. When you have talented players, you find a way to adjust the scheme to get them on the field. This coaching deficiency has manifested itself in other ways as well – using Dante Fowler Jr. purely as an edge rusher, the lack of aggressiveness by Tashaun Gipson, Johnathan Cyprien being terrible up until this season, Julius Thomas being schemed for screen passes when it takes him an eon to change direction… The list is long.

So Jack should play more. But he won’t.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to lose this game. I have absolutely no confidence in them on the road and while I would be ecstatic if Blake Bortles all of a sudden turned it on and started connecting on throws down the field, it’s foolish to think it will actually happen. The Lions aren’t a great team but you don’t even need to be mediocre at this point to beat the Jaguars – just show up and watch them self-destruct.

The Lions will build a sizable first half lead and we’ll all watch as people tweet about Bortles’ garbage time stats in real time.

PREDICTION: Jaguars 23 – Lions 31

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