Dec 4, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; The Jacksonville Jaguars walk out of the locker room during pre game ceremonies of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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One week after facing one of the best defenses in the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t get much of a reprieve as they host the Minnesota Vikings.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-10 and they’ve been particularly disappointing at home, as fans at Everbank Field have yet to see their team win a game or really just look remotely competent since the opening game against the Green Bay Packers.
Looking back, it’s kind of insane how different the season feels compared to that week 1 loss. After keeping it close against the Packers and failing to capitalize on a chance to win the game at the end, hopes and expectations were still relatively high. The Jaguars just hung with one of the better teams in the league and probably should have beaten them.
Things changed dramatically after the blowout loss to the San Diego Chargers the following week and it’s only gotten worse. Fans probably lost hope at different stages throughout the season, but in the midst of a 7 game losing streak, there isn’t anyone on the planet left who thinks this is a good football team.
The Jaguars actually have a decent matchup this week as they face another offensively challenged team in the Minnesota Vikings. That doesn’t mean much though, as the Jaguars faced a horrible rookie quarterback last week and they still lost soundly to the Denver Broncos. Sam Bradford has spurts of decent play and should be able to move the ball a bit against the Jaguars.
So what’s going to actually happen when the Jaguars host one of the better defenses in the NFL on Sunday? Will they play well or continue to embarrassing themselves? Click ahead to see my “rock solid” predictions:
Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Cowboys defeated the Vikings 17-15. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Sam Bradford will throw for a touchdown:FACT
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has been one of the worst starters in the NFL, supported by his awful 51.5 QBR, good for 27th in the league.
His counterpart on Sunday has played much better over the course of the season with a significantly worse supporting cast. His QBR? 55.6
So yeah, QBR isn’t the best stat. Bradford has been noticeably better than Bortles this year, mostly because he hasn’t directly cost his team a majority of their games. Even when Adrian Peterson was in the lineup, Bradford’s running game was and has been one of the worst. His offensive line is terrible in both run and pass blocking, and the offense has devolved into a predictable rotation of short passes.
All that taken into account, the Vikings have managed to stay in the playoff hunt thanks to great defense and some timely throws by Bradford. He’s only thrown three interceptions and he’s made good decisions for the most part.
He faces a supposedly good pass defense in the Jacksonville Jaguars, but I think he’ll put together at least one good drive on Sunday. I expect him to methodically move down the field and throw a short pass to Kyle Rudolph in the redzone for a TD.
Oct 9, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) celebrates his touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Texans 31-13. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings will score a defense/special teams touchdown:FACT
The Jacksonville Jaguars are not good at many things, but one of the things you can almost always count on is an unconventional touchdown by the opposing team. This year, the specialty has been a pick 6 or a punt return touchdown.
Unfortunately, both of those are in play this Sunday.
Blake Bortles is one of the most generous quarterbacks in the league, and he faces a defense with a fierce pass rush and a very good secondary. With Allen Robinson struggling as well (and tipping passes to opposing defenders), it’s almost an afterthought that Blake will throw an interception. There’s a reasonable chance that it gets returned for a touchdown.
On special teams, the Vikings trot out one of the more dynamic returners in Cordarrelle Patterson. He’s been a massive disappointment as a wide receiver, but he can still change the game with the ball in his hands. The Jaguars punt coverage has been abysmal for the entire season, and even the great Brad Nortman has had issues with punt placement.
Maybe the Jaguars will give up a defensive TD and a punt return TD. But I’ll go ahead and say at least one will happen.
Nov 20, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker Antwione Williams (52) reaches for the loose ball during the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
The Jaguars will win the turnover margin:FICTION
This is almost too easy, but I’d like to nail at least one prediction.
If there’s one thing the Jaguars do as well as turn the ball over, it’s not create turnovers. Look no further than the comical dropped interception last week. After a horrific deep throw by Paxton Lynch that Jalen Ramsey tipped into the air, Tashaun Gipson decided to throw the ball to the ground Ala Andy Samberg in the “Threw it on the ground” music video.
Even if the Jacksonville defense does force a turnover, this prediction would still require the offense to protect the ball. That’s not going to happen.
There’s not much to analyze about this matchup, mostly because it starts and ends with the head coaches. Mike Zimmer is a good head coach who has shown he can gameplan and win despite some roster limitations. Gus Bradley has emphatically and consistently shown he is incapable of beating a winning team. The Vikings are a good team, therefore it is literally impossible for Gus Bradley to win.
I don’t think this will be a shootout or a particularly fun game to watch, even if you are a Vikings fan. The Jaguars will fail as the spoilers yet again, and they’ll leave a bad taste in the home fans’ mouths.