Jacksonville (3-5) is looking at an extreme outside shot at a wild-card playoff berth after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals last week and falling to third place in the AFC South.
The Lions (0-8) are struggling with quarterback injuries and abysmal line play and are dead last in the NFC North, a position they have occupied habitually of late.
Both teams have been worse than expected this season, and injuries and personnel problems have plagued them since the beginning of the year, but both teams are determined to begin a turnaround this week in Detroit.
The last time these two met, the Jaguars won an overtime victory, 23-17, despite a poor special-teams performance that allowed the Lions to return two punts for touchdowns in the same quarter.
It was also the second start for then backup quarterback David Garrard, who threw two touchdowns.
Jacksonville will win if...
The defense plays sharp.
The defensive line has to stop the run. In the Jaguars' last four games, they have allowed some of the league's worst run offenses (see Cincinnati) to carve them up on the ground.
The linebacker play has been terrible and don't get me started on the secondary in run support. Reggie Nelson has been the one shining star, coming in from the safety position and playing in a manner reminiscent of Bob Sanders or Troy Polamalu.
The offense does their job.
The offense has to move the ball efficiently: RUN RUN RUN! The Jaguars' offense did not move the ball well against the Bengals last weekend, and it showed in the final score. Losing by less than a touchdown every week is a terrible feeling, and losing by a missed two-point conversion is even worse.
David Garrard does his job.
David Garrard has been very efficient this season, throwing no interceptions in his last three games. Expect that trend to continue, and look for the Jags to air it out early and often against a suspect Detroit secondary. The rush offense has been lacking this season, and it has facilitated Garrard's development, knowing that the team is relying on him for every yard they get.
Jacksonville will lose if...
They can't run the ball.
The Jaguars are a smash-mouth team, and they like to lay the wood on teams by running up the middle. If they fail to do that, they will not win this game. They haven't won a game this season without a rushing touchdown, and that's what they need.
They have 12 penalties.
Last week, against the Bengals, the Jags had 12 penalties and that is unacceptable. False starts, offsides, and ridiculous mistakes WILL KILL MOMENTUM! The Jaguars have been playing sloppy, and it is not Jack Del Rio's style to have a team making stupid mistakes.
They can't stop the run.
If Detroit is able to establish the run, the Jaguars' secondary isn't good enough to contain the play-action passing attack. It is what has happened every week. A team sets up a strong rushing attack and then blasts the Jags through the air with the play-action attack. They must stop the run, or they will not win this game.
The X Factor
In this game, the X-Factor is definitely David Garrard. Garrard is looking for a big day, and he has never had a 300 yard passing game in his career. Look for him to come out shooting.
I think the Jaguars must win this game. They are playing an 0-8 Detroit team that is desperate for a win, and they have to beat that desperation. Losing to winless teams in two consecutive weeks would be embarrassing and totally un-called for after the high expectations levied on them at the start of this season.
I think the Jags understand as a team that this is their chance to salvage the season, and I think they'll play like it. Look for Jacksonville to win by a touchdown.
Jacksonville 14, Detroit 7
Be sure to check out Detroit writer Scott Rieger's take on the game. You can read his article here http://bleacherreport.com/articles/78209-creature-vs-creature-a-lions-take-on-jacksonville-detroit .
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