Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants
Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010, 1 p.m. EST
Line: New York Giants -8
It appeared—for a brief moment—as though the New York Giants were going to take hold of a struggling NFC. After back-to-back double-digit losses against division opponents, the Giants are fighting for their playoff lives. The Eagles are becoming the dark horse in the NFC race and have a firm hold over the NFC East. With three teams having the edge over the G-men, they need one desperately here.
Nobody has been more impressive this season than Jacksonville. While they certainly aren’t worthy of the elite status, we are in Week 12 and the Jaguars sit atop the AFC South.
While I anticipated the race in the AFC South being closer than come projected (as highlighted in this article), I never imagined the Jaguars would be the team to push the Colts. At 6-4, if the Jaguars can knock off the Giants, it will make the AFC South even more interesting.
Keys to the Game
The Jaguars offense matches up well against the Giants defense. The Giants relish in dominating the trenches on defense. While they should continue that pattern, the Jaguars can still generate offense.
The Jaguars are a run-first football team, but succeed when they throw the ball effectively. Maurice Jones-Drew is going to get his touches, but he will likely struggle to get penetrate the second level against a Giants defense that allows less than 90 yards a game on the ground.
David Garrard is going to be pressured, but the Jaguars offense is structured to handle such pressure. Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas lead the Jaguars receiving corp and neither average over 13 yards a catch. Thomas can be a deep threat, but Garrard does an excellent job of dumping the ball off to take advantage of mismatches when teams disregard the Jaguars passing game.
This explains his 98.5 quarterback rating. The Jaguars came into this season one dimensional, but have since loosened Garrard’s leash. He failed to break 200 yards in his first six games and has since posted back-to-back-to-back games with at least 250 yards and multiple touchdowns.
Brandon Jacobs is getting the nod over Ahmad Bradshaw? Are you kidding me? I am a huge Tom Coughlin fan, but this is boneheaded. Bradshaw has had problems fumbling the ball, but he is also a top-five running back and leads the league in runs of 20-plus yards, with 10. The Vikings didn’t bench Adrian Peterson when he had fumbling problems.
Bradshaw is not the reason the Giants have taken a step backwards and this demotion doesn’t do anything but make Bradshaw run more timidly. Horrible decision, regardless of how many carries Coughlin says can go around. Jacobs supported Bradshaw when he was given the nod and you can expect Bradshaw to return the favor, but Coughlin needs to approach this a different way.
Marcedes Lewis could have a big day. His eight touchdowns best Roddy White and Brandon Lloyd. When the Jags get into the red zone, Jones-Drew commands the complete attention of the defense. Lewis sneaks through the defense and too often finds himself standing alone in the end zone.
Mike Thomas is a deep threat receiver, but can quickly become a possession receiver when teams turn up the heat and only allow a short amount of time for Garrard to get the ball off. Lewis and Thomas will both need to be reliable outlets for Garrard, should he receiver premature pressure.
Maurice Jones-Drew vs. the Giants Front Four
MJD makes everything happen for the Jaguars offense. He has posted three 100 yard games in a row. It has completely opened up the Jaguars offense and if he can continue to have this sort of production, the Jaguars won’t be able to be slowed in any facet of their offense.
The four teams he has posted 100 yards on this season (Indianapolis, Cleveland, Houston and Dallas) are not exactly among the best run defenses in the league, so it is fair to be slightly skeptical when projecting his performance against a stout defense like the Giants.
Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck lead the charge for the entire Giants defense. The two are nearly impossible to control, as it is impossible to double-team both of them and not be dominated in the interior line. The Jaguars will need to feature an offense full of quick-hitting plays that take close to no time to develop. The Giants defensive line will likely wreak havoc in the backfield, but they can’t allow themselves to over pursue or lose sight of the compact, shifty Maurice Jones-Drew.
I thought the Giants might be the best team in the league only a few weeks ago. At this point, they can’t afford to drop another game. The Jaguars aren’t in a position to lose on Sunday either. Right now, they have a leg up on Peyton Manning and would like to keep it that way by racking up another win on Sunday.
This may not be the game of the week, but it is one of the most compelling matchups of the week. Both of these teams are teetering between making and missing the playoffs, which makes for great competition. The spread is eight and given the way both teams are playing, it looks like three would be a more suitable spread.
Free NFL Pick: Jacksonville +8