Bills vs. Jaguars: Breaking Down Jacksonville's Game Plan

Giancarlo Ferrari-King@@GiancarloKingFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 05:  Chad Henne #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars scrambles for yardage during the game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field on December 5, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Would you have believed just a few weeks ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars would still have an outside chance of making the playoffs heading into Week 15?

Winning four out of their last five games, head coach Gus Bradley has his team playing some of the best football Jaguars fans have seen in years.

Now heading into their Week 15 showdown with the Buffalo Bills, the Jaguars will look to keep their winning ways going by putting the screws to a 4-9 Buffalo team.

But how can they do it? Using film study and taking a deeper look into a series of advanced statistics, it's time to examine the right game plan Jacksonville should implement this week against the Bills.

Nov 24, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) bows after scoring a touchdown against Houston Texans during the first half at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports


Patience Is a Virtue

One of the biggest reasons the Jaguars have turned things around is because running back Maurice Jones-Drew has finally found his groove.

Racking up 264 yards rushing in his last three games, Jones-Drew is showing the Jaguars' front office he belongs on this roster next season.

Although writer Michael DiRocco has reported that Jones-Drew's status for this Sunday's game is in doubt, the star running back told SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio he would play this week:

MJD (@Jones_Drew32) tells Mike Dempsey (@md_1010xl) on Runnin' with MJD that he has a strained hamstring. Expects to play next week!

— SiriusXM Fantasy    (@SiriusXMFantasy) December 7, 2013

If he does suit up, the eight-year veteran will get his chance to shine against the Bills' 26th-ranked run defense.

While the Bills are giving up 124.8 yards per game on the ground, somehow this team has managed to secure a positive grade when it comes to run defense from the folks over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

So how exactly does the 26th-ranked run defense generate a positive grade? Simple, by giving up big plays.

NFL Game Rewind

In the picture above, you'll see an example of how this Buffalo defense is consistently being shredded this season.

Looking to establish the run early in the first quarter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers call on the services of running back Bobby Rainey.

NFL Game Rewind

Thanks to a combination of great blocking and the Bills doing a poor job of covering their assigned gaps, Rainey is able to gash Buffalo's defense for an impressive 80-yard touchdown run.

Talking about giving up huge plays, Bills linebacker Manny Lawson told

Understanding the Bills have a tendency to surrender Donald Trump-like pieces of real estate on the ground, Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will have to remain patient and stick with the run throughout the game.

If he can do that, there's a good chance this defense will miss an assignment and leave an open path for either Jones-Drew or backup running back Jordan Toddman directly to the end zone.

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 01: Wide receiver Ace Sanders #18 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball by defensive back Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Image
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


The Ace Sanders Show

Although it should be the name of a classic 1990s television sitcom, the real Ace Sanders show has taken place in Jacksonville over the last couple of weeks.

Standing at 5'7", Jaguars wide receiver Ace Sanders has become a nice weapon for this improving offense. According to PFF, Sanders has averaged 41.5 snaps per game over the last four weeks. A dynamic player who can terrorize opposing defenses when he gets the pigskin in space, Sanders is a perfect fit for this matchup against the Bills.

Facing a Buffalo defense that has a tendency to make mistakes, Sanders needs to get involved often if the Jaguars have any chance of winning this football game.

Whether he's being used as a decoy or featured as a weapon, it's easy to notice on film that Sanders has an uncanny ability to make people miss.

NFL Game Rewind

Going up against the Cleveland Browns in Week 14, the Jaguars did a nice job of taking advantage of Sanders' skill set.

In the example above, Sanders is motioned into the backfield to keep the defense on their toes.

NFL Game Rewind

Faking the handoff to Jones-Drew, quarterback Chad Henne pitches the football to Sanders, who cuts it up the sideline and picks up a much-needed first down.

Thanks to his all-around ability to make things happen on the field, look for the Jaguars to feature a healthy dose of Ace Sanders against the Bills in Week 15.

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 8: EJ Manuel #3 of the Buffalo Bills scrambles away from Akeem Spence #97 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 8 2013 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images


Attack EJ Manuel

Out of the 40 starting quarterbacks graded by PFF this season, Bills starting QB EJ Manuel is currently ranked 39th.

Registering just three positive grades in nine games played this season, Manuel has had major issues seeing the field and making the right decisions.

After throwing four interceptions against the Buccaneers last week, Bills head coach Doug Marrone told WGR 550 he may have to tone things down for his rookie quarterback moving forward.

With the playbook potentially watered down, it's going to be essential for Jacksonville's defense to attack the former Florida State quarterback and force him to make mistakes.

NFL Game Rewind

Benefiting from a valiant pass rush, the Buccaneers defense is able to collapse the pocket and force Manuel to make a quick decision.

After looking off his initial read, Manuel targets wide receiver T.J. Graham across the middle of field.

NFL Game Rewind

Instead of leading Graham into space, the ball sails and ends up right in the hands of Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks.

If you time Manuel from the snap to when he releases the football, he clocks in at about three seconds. Because of a collapsing pocket, Manuel makes a hasty decision while trying to make something out of nothing.

In order for the Jaguars to create turnovers, they are going to have to do their best to dial up pressure in just about every passing situation.


HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Chad Henne #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars waits on the field before the game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images


Just like their game against the Houston Texans, the Jaguars have a really good shot at beating the Buffalo Bills in Week 15.

Making sure they protect the football, stay patient in the run game and force Bills quarterback EJ Manuel to make quick decisions is the perfect formula for achieving success.

For Jaguars fans, it's been pretty fantastic watching this team play hard and respond to the culture head coach Gus Bradley has created.

While reaching the playoffs may be a long shot this season, if Jacksonville can continue to grow as a football team, greatness could be arriving sooner than most of us initially expected.


*All stats courtesy of unless noted otherwise.


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