The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) will leave the warm Florida climate to come to Colorado where game day temps will hover around 50 degrees. Jacksonville cannot win or lose games by more than seven points this year, so their record is not a good indicator of what to expect on Sunday. Unbelievably, the Broncos have the league’s longest home winning streak at six games. Both teams are plagued by injuries, and the Jags are coming off of a tough loss to Pittsburgh. The two teams met last year in a game that the Broncos would like to forget about. With a 2-0 record to begin the 07′ season, the Broncos thought they had their QB of the future, and a strong defense. Then, like a tornado picking up Dorothy in Kansas, the Broncos were taken by the storm and slammed into a place called Loserville. They went on to lose to Indianapolis by 18 and San Diego by 38 after their defense let the Jags’ offense control the ball for 39 minutes. The Broncos’ defense continued its downward spiral until the season’s end. But, last year is last year. This is a brand new team that is looking for their 400th franchise victory. The Jags are not going to rain on their parade again. However, it will not be an easy victory for the Broncos. My Prediction: Broncos 31 Jaguars 20.
Broncos - The offense will look to get back on track after their poor performance in Kansas City and their 16 point effort in the Tampa Bay win. Some new guys will need to fill in this week as Selvin Young and Tony Scheffler are out due to strained groins. Young leads the team in rushing yards, and Scheffler is third in receiving yards. It looks like it’s a good week to have Michael Pittman on your fantasy roster as he will be carrying the ball more along with Andre Hall. Other than Jay Cutler, Pittman has the most touchdowns for the Broncos this season. With Scheffler out, Nate Jackson will see more playing time as well. Also on the mend is rookie Eddie Royal. He is probable with a sprained ankle, but you will see Darrell Jackson (who returns from injury) on the field quite a bit. Cutler still has plenty of options available to him. I’m sure Brandon Marshall is pleading for more balls to be thrown his way as he only had 3 catches for 25 yards last week. Cutler just needs to be careful of the underneath defenders that have intercepted his passes intended for Marshall in the past. The offense loves to play at home, so they should have over 30 points against the Jags’ struggling defense.
Jaguars- Any offense that comes to Denver makes me nervous. Yes, the Broncos have shown that they have a defense. Now, let’s test this theory by replicating the experiment. Like the Bucs, the Jags have a QB who is a headcase. David Garrard comes in with 3 TDs, 4 INTs, and 1 fumble in 5 games. That’s benchwarmer worthy, but the Jags don’t have a clipboard holder good enough to replace him, so they’re stuck with Garrard. Their running game might have a chance with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew running the show. Both had over 100 yards rushing in their win over the Colts, but it was a close game because Garrard played like a JV backup. Matt Jones leads the team in legal fees, I mean receiving yards with 23 catchers for 269 yards and 1 TD. That’s how bad this offense really is. Don’t throw on your bathrobe and slippers yet, though. This team likes to control the clock and would like to hold the ball for 32-35 minutes per game. Let’s hope the Broncos’ can stop the run to allow their offense a chance to get on the field.
Broncos - Defensive momentum does not cross state lines, does it? At least for now? If the Broncos can generate the pass rush once again, Garrard is the kind of QB who will throw right into the arms of Champ Bailey, Dre Bly, and Co. The 3-4 alignment mixed in with the 4-3 may be the right recipe for the Broncos right now. The linebackers had more than half the team’s 62 total tackles against the Bucs, and youngsters got a glimpse of what it must have been like to watch the Orange Crush in action. Elvis Dumervil feels a sense of relief as he got his first sack of the season (finally!), and the rest of the defense held Tampa Bay to just 168 passing yards. The Broncos should play to the run at least in the beginning because of the Jags’ tendency to have an ugly passing game. If the Broncos can stop the run, then the game is pretty much in the bag.
Jaguars - This defense has trouble coming up big when it needs to. In their final drive, the opposing offense has scored on the Jags in all 5 games. As a whole their pass rush has had trouble, tallying just 8 sacks through 5 games. The Jags are plagued by age and injury. Cornerback Drayton Florence and safety Reggie Nelson missed last week’s game, but Florence should play on Sunday. The coaching staff played the game more conservatively on defense against the Steelers by cutting back on the blitzes, but that may not work against the Broncos. When Cutler has time, receivers find a hole to sit in, and Cutler can deliver on the money. Brian Williams is one of the top 10 players in the league in tackles (29), and he has an interception. Rashean Mathis also has a nose for the ball as he has 2 INTs on the season. The Broncos offense will have a chance to expose this frail defense in the air and on the ground.
Broncos - Jason Elam who? Matt Prater is 4-4 on field goals of 50+ yards. He was named the a top AFC player of the week, and nailed all three of his field goals against Tampa. He leads the league in scoring with 51 points. Brett Kern also did a great job on special teams last week punting 5 times and landing the ball inside the 20 twice. He averaged 49.6 yards per punt. Tampa only had one chance to return a kick and the coverage stood strong on that one play. The Broncos learned that it may just be best to not let teams return kicks at all.
Jaguars - The Jags actually have the best kickoff coverage in the league, so the Broncos may not have much of an opportunity to score there. The Jags could take advantage of a weak Broncos’ kickoff coverage because they are ranked 6th in the league in returns. Brian Witherspoon is averaging 28.6 yards on returns and he had a 51 yard break away this season. Field goal kicker Josh Scobee is 10 for 11 on the season and he’s made all of his extra point attempts.
Broncos - Mike Shanahan continued to tell the media that the defense would come around, and he was right. Now, if he can get the offense and defense on the same page starting with the Jacksonville game, he will be my hero. The coaching staff’s play calling makes opposing teams think they’re in Las Vegas with all of the guessing that they have to do just to get a stop. Shanahan and staff have got this team figured out for the most part, and they’re exposing their strengths and masking their weaknesses.
Jaguars - Jack Del Rio is trying to pound the fundamentals into his players’ heads. He says that they’re not sharp and it shows because they can’t close out games, and they can’t convert or get stops on third downs. Wearing a suit and tie during the game won’t solve those problems, and Del Rio knows that if they can’t win in Denver, their season is virtually over.
Tags: Andre Hall Brain Williams Brandon Marshall Brett Kern Brian Witherspoon Champ Bailey Darrell Jackson David Garrard Denver Broncos Drayton Florence Dre' Bly Eddie Royal Elvis Dumervil Fred Taylor Jack Del Rio Jacksonville Jaguars Jason Elam Jay Cutler Josh Scobee Matt Jones Matt Prater Maurice Jones-drew Michael Pittman Mike Shanahan Nate Jackson Orange Crush Rashean Mathis Reggie Nelson Selvin Young Tony Schffler