It has been a long year for the Jacksonville Jaguars and they own one of the NFL’s most disappointing offenses. At times, Blake Bortles has been the worst quarterback in the NFL this season and it seems like the only skill position player on the Jaguars exceeding expectations is former USC second-round pick Marqise Lee.
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Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills should feel optimistic about their passing game. Tyrod Taylor has done an underrated job of holding down the fort with the likes of Justin Hunter and Marquise Goodwin as top weapons, so you can imagine how ecstatic he is to have Sammy Watkins on the mend.
Watkins has been activated from the injured reserve after struggling with a foot injury and he should be out there in a limited role against a Jaguars secondary that is fifth in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed. Depending on how much Watkins plays, he could see some favorable matchups against this Jaguars defense, which struggles mightily at defending the deep ball.
At 5-5, the Bills playoff hopes are not shot, so the 2-8 Jaguars will be playing the role of the spoiler in this matchup.
The Bills took advantage of an injury to A.J. Green to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in their first game back from the bye, so defeating the Jags is an easy way to build a winning streak. Rex Ryan’s squad, which should have LeSean McCoy available on Sunday, gets tougher Week 13 and 14 matchups against the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.
Gus Bradley is, of course, coaching for his job, and wins against a mediocre team like Buffalo are important for him. The Jaguars have lost five-straight and haven’t scored 30 points since Week 4. They need a strong showing on offense.
Keys to Victory
If the Bills want to win this game, they just need to keep playing to their strengths. Run the rock with McCoy and control the pace of this game. If the Jaguars do start to threaten with some big plays from Bortles to the likes of Allen Robinson and Lee, then look to respond with passes to deep threats Watkins, Hunter, and Goodwin.
The Bills passing game is one of the NFL’s least efficient (29th in net yards per pass attempt) and the Jaguars have a talented secondary. That’s one matchup to watch for, but the Bills can hide this imbalance by continuing to ride the running game. If McCoy leaves the game again, then the Bills should do their best to trust Jonathan Williams with Mike Gillislee ruled out.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars must avoid losing the turnover battle. Behind Bortles, the Jaguars have the second-most turnovers in the NFL (22). Despite the tight coverage from the secondary, Jacksonville is dead last in the league in turnovers forced. Their pass rush has struggled, as rookie Yannick Ngakoue’s five sacks make him the lone player with at least three on the season.
Games like this are difficult to project, but a healthy McCoy should have Buffalo in business. It’s hard to trust someone like Bortles, even against a Bills defense with cornerbacks who have slumped badly this season.