Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers: What to Expect in Week 3 Matchup
The Jaguars are coming off a disappointing 32-2 loss to the Jets last week, one that saw Luke McCown lose his job after a four-interception performance.
Enter Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert takes control of the Jaguars offense in his first NFL start against Carolina's sensational rookie, Cam Newton. Newton, the first-overall pick from Auburn, has completed 62 percent of his passes for 854 yards in his first two games.
This game also marks the first time since 2007 that two rookie quarterbacks have faced one another.
The Jaguars should be prepared for a better Carolina team than the one we saw in 2010. Newton has added a dynamic confidence to the offense, which has rejuvenated the career of wide receiver Steve Smith.
Smith, in his 11th season, is off to the best start of his career. After a disappointing 2010, he has hauled in 14 receptions for 334 yards and 2 touchdowns, exhibiting a fast chemistry with Newton that makes the Panthers offense dangerous.
It's hard to predict what to expect from Gabbert.
Expect the Jaguars to be more aggressive than what most may predict against Carolina's 26th-ranked defense.
The Panthers have given up 406 yards per game, and 58 points in their first two games. In addition, this game represents an ideal starting point for Gabbert, as the Panthers are allowing a league-worst 124.7 rating to opposing quarterbacks.
Understanding their own weakness, expect the Panthers to resist blitzing often and exposing a vulnerable secondary. This passive approach should open up lanes in the running game for Maurice Jones-Drew, whom I expect to surpass 100 yards.
Jacksonville makes a change in the secondary this week, starting Dwight Lowery in place of the ineffective Courtney Greene.
Lowery, the free-agent signee, is a former Jet who sealed the Jaguars' Week 1 win against the Titans with a late interception.
Expect the Jaguars' fifth-ranked defense to continue to gel and play well, despite giving up some yards through the air to Newton and Smith.
I expect a competitive game, with both teams moving the football well. Gabbert will be the difference for a Jaguars team that has struggled in the passing game through two weeks, and I expect the rookie to make a few plays with his legs to extend the drive as well.
In conclusion, Jones-Drew goes for 135 yards, Gabbert plays well, and the Jaguars have a big defensive stand at the end to win the game 27-23.
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