The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) play host to the New York Jets (5-7) on Sunday afternoon in a battle of carousel QBs. Each team has used a different QB at the position at various points in the season but can't seem to settle on a permanent starter.
Mark Sanchez will resume his duty at the starter for the Jets, who are still in the playoff hunt but find themselves in a must-win situation from here on out. The move is troubling for fans of Greg McElroy, who came in to lead the Jets on a game-winning touchdown drive during the team's 7-6 win over Arizona in Week 13.
Chad Henne has taken over for Blaine Gabbert and fared quite well, winning the team's second game of the season and making receivers like Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon relevant with all the injuries at the running back position.
Here's a look at a final preview for these two AFC rivals, including a look at the spread, each team's injury report and what to expect when Rex Ryan coaches for his job on Sunday afternoon.
When: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: EverBank Field; Jacksonville, Fla.
Watch: CBS, NFL Sunday Ticket (live stream)
Spread: New York -3 (according to Bovada)
On the road in Jacksonville, New York will be expected to win this game rather handily. But with injuries on both sides of the ball mounting and the QB situation anything but settled, this game isn't a sure-win for the Jets.
The Jets have been a horrendous road team, including huge losses to Pittsburgh and Seattle. Still, those were both playoff teams, and many have walked all over the Jags this season. If you're smart, take the Jets and watch them give us false hope of a late-season comeback.
Interesting fact—Chad Henne was 3-1 as a starter for Miami against the Jets. Can he make it 4-1 after this weekend? I don't think so—the defense hasn't been good enough and running back injuries have devastated this team in the trenches.
Over/Under: 38.5 (according to Bovada)
This spread is quite low, but after witnessing the 7-6 game last weekend, it's clear that anything is possible with this Jets team.
Miami is no sure-thing on offense either, so I don't think this one gets above that plateau. Mark Sanchez could throw three touchdowns or three interceptions, but history and recent performance leads to suggest it will be the picks.
Without a running game to lean on in Jacksonville, it wouldn't be hard to see Henne toss at least one pick. The same goes for Sanchez, who finds new ways to turn the ball over each game. This one turns into a defensive struggle.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/6/12)
|DT||Kenrick Ellis||Knee, back||Probable|
|WR||Jeremy Kerley||Hamstring, heel||Probable|
|RB||Joe McKnight||Ankle, ribs||Questionable|
Fantasy Big Plays
For the Jets, there isn't a bigger threat than Shonn Greene, fresh off of a 100-yard performance and ripe for picking against a Jaguars defense that allows the 29th-worst numbers against running backs. Keep Jeremy Kerley in mind as a sleeper for the Jets, but don't play one of their QBs unless you don't have any other options.
For the Jags, look for Justin Blackmon to be the big-play guy for Henne. He's developed a nice chemistry with Gabbert's replacement and had his best games with Henne under center.
As a sleeper, Montell Owens is now the man with the recent injuries at the running back position, so if you're in dire straits or have a spot to fill, Owens is a nice sleeper find.
Key to New York Win: Play Jet Football
Throwing the ball has never been Sanchez's forte, even when the Jets were winning games and making playoff runs. This team prides itself on running the ball and not allowing Sanchez to beat his own team by throwing three interceptions (see Arizona game).
By taking the ball out of Sanchez's hands, the Jets can take advantage of Jacksonville's run defense while also giving Sanchez easier throws off of play action and quick rollouts. Still, McElroy is waiting in the wings.
If things get tough, will Ryan pull the plug on Sanchez yet again?
Key to Jacksonville Win: Get Big Plays Down the Field
Shorts and Blackmon have been dynamite with Henne at QB, both stretching the field and getting touchdowns on top of it. Shorts was averaging 19.2 yards per catch before his injury, a huge tell to his speed and ability to get behind the defense.
Even without Darrell Revis, this defense is giving up only 198 yards through the air. That would have been acceptable with Gabbert under center, but with Henne, the Jags must stretch the field to make up for a lack of running game.
The big play can help open up running lanes for Owens and also make things easier on the play-calling, something to keep an eye on in the early part of this game.
Jacksonville is fully capable of winning this game, but they can't find the defense down the stretch to stop a concerted effort by Ryan to run the football. The Jets, like the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC, continue to tease fans by staying alive in the playoff race until the very end.
New York 17, Jacksonville 13
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.