January 08, 2012

Week 13: San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars


Vegas Line: Jaguars + 3

Rob’s Line: Jaguars + 3.5

The last time the Jaguars were here, on Monday Night Football, they recorded one of their most memorable wins in recent memory. To the neutral, the 12-7 victory against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7 won’t be remembered as the prettiest game on the eye, but personally, I was enthralled. So, despite this matchup offering less tension than its predecessor, I say welcome back Jacksonville!

For a team with a 3-8 record, the Jags sit favourably in three of the four overall statistical categories, the one (glaring) weakness being their pass offense, which ranks dead last in the league. In a season rich in rookie quarterback quality, Blaine Gabbert has much to learn when compared to Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder. Newton is athletically unique, Dalton’s a scrapper with a knack for pulling out fourth quarter victories and it’s only Ponder who can possibly relate to the situation Gabbert finds himself in.
Ponder’s Vikings are 2-10, not a million miles from Jacksonville’s 3-8 (interestingly, if the Vikes were up against the Jags with a healthy Adrian Peterson at running back, Minnesota would be favoured) and both teams possess a potent running back who should be eating up chunks of yardage on first and second down, making life easier for their respective QBs on third down.
Peterson is a wonderful football player and Gabbert’s own run machine comes in the form of Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD has 1,040 rushing yards this season at 4.5 yards a pop and as a mark of his consistency, in four of his last five outings he’s accumulated 105, 114, 87 and 99 yards. He’s done this all season long, but whereas Ponder benefits from Peterson (when he’s healthy), Gabbert’s struggled, completing just 48.5% of his passes. One interesting stat of note though is that while Gabbert has only thrown six touchdowns, he’s also only thrown the same amount of interceptions, meaning he’s not needlessly forcing the issue. That in itself is encouraging, but it does remain to be seen how he performs when full of confidence, perhaps when he feels he can throw into double and maybe triple coverage.
The San Diego Chargers…when trying to describe them, it’s hard to escape the word rabble. Still capable of beating many teams in the NFL, they find themselves on a six game skid, an occurence nobody saw coming. Yet despite this, and facing a rigid Jacksonville defense, we know they’re capable of leaving north east Florida with an easy win under their belts. Their job (QB Philip Rivers’ job specifically) is made easier by the fact that the Jaguars enter this one, much like last week against Houston, without their three best corenerbacks.
Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox and Will Middleton are all lost for the season and on injured reserve and it’s hard not to envision Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates putting up solid numbers. That said, for a San Diego team with a reputation for being soft, it remains to be seen how motivated they’ll be come kickoff.
The Jaguars won’t have any such problems and will feel confident of pushing their more illustrious opponents all the way. Do they have enough to protect a field goal start? Their defense will thrive on the primetime spotlight against a team with playoff calibre starters, but I find it diificult to look past a decimated Jaguar secondary. I should probably be seriously questioned for this as my faith in San Diego should’ve been left in California weeks ago, but I’m taking the Chargers to cover the spread.


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