Tempers will flare and really mean things may or may not be said by otherwise gentle men this Sunday, as the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6 but 7-0 in our hearts), square off in a rectangular sodded playing arena against another team with a fiercely cartoonish and geographically misplaced cat for a mascot, in the Lions of Detroit, Michigan.
After looking like they couldn't compete with the Mean Machine for most of the first half of the season, and the team seemingly spiraling into the worst season in the history of a franchise that once had the likes of Bobby Shaw and Matthew Hatchette as starting wide receivers, at the same time, the boys in
teal menacing Jaguar black and white managed to put together a surprisingly NFL-like performance last week against one of the leagues better teams in the Green Bay Packers, that left many diehard Jag fans believing they were in some sort of hallucinogenic magic ride.
This week, the team will try to continue looking like a professional sports franchise and will have to do so against the league's best passing weapon in wide receiver Calvin Johnson and his handler, Matthew Stafford of the Athens Staffords.
Whether the Jaguars pull off a triumphant second win in eight games remains to be seen, but here's hoping we at least get a spirited contest with little injury or a massacre.
Now here's three things to watch for the Jaguars this Sunday.
1. What, A Rush?!
Last week in this column, a really smart and in-depth analysis was written by some highly intellectual blogger, about how the defensive line was showing signs of gradual improvement in the pass rush department since the return of the previously injured guys, such as Austen Lane and George Selvie. Well, lo and behold the team sacked Packers QB Aaron Rodgers twice, including forcing a fumble that turned momentum for the Jaguars late in the first half, and for the most part kept consistent pressure on the quarterback for another consecutive week. Not coincidentally, since the pass rush has begun stepping up their game, the defense as a whole has improved from the sieve it had the look of during the first month of the season. Much like the last few games, the Jags will face a team whose offensive line isn't exactly keeping them up at night. Consistent pressure up front will once again be key, as any extra time allotted to Stafford to hang in the pocket is asking for an inevitable Megatron sighting downfield. Barring injury, look for the Jags to once again provide a good amount of pressure with their pass rush, that will help out a banged up secondary.
2. Scobee Bryant
I haven't thrown a bone out to everyone's favorite placekicker yet this season, so I figured why not go ahead and get it out of the way. In a season where the team has less touchdowns on offense than some individual players do in the league, Josh Scobee has been yet again a constant points machine, converting on all 14 of his field goal attempts this season thus far, including going 4/4 from kicks of 40 yards or more. Try saying that last bit a few times fast...no really, try it. Ya know, for me. Anyway, God knows this team scores in the end zone about as much as Tim Tebow at the Vegas "Cathouse", so don't forget to cheer on number 10 and his wonderful leg.
3. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
After having a musical chairs lineup since July, and nearly erasing any and all progress made by Blaine Gabbert by nearly getting Blaine Gabbert erased, the offensive line has started to settle in and with the surprise play of two undrafted free agents in guard Mike Brewster and right tackle Cam Bradfield, has kept the quarterback relatively clean as of late. The line will have to have similar repeat performances for this offense to continue to improve, and that continues Sunday with what is a tremendous Lions front four on paper. Between defensive ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vandenbosch and two former first round picks at tackle in Nick Fairley and the specimen that is "Kong" Suh, the offensive line will likely be facing the best overall front four it's had to deal with all season. If they play well versus this group, it'll be the most telling sign of improvement that we've seen and will surely give a glimpse of hope for offense for the second half of the season.