It's friday, which means it's the final day to learn anything of note about the Jaguars and the Bills until a few hours before game time. I always imagined Saturday as the moment where radio contact is lost in the movie Apollo 13, or more correctly, when the Lunar Module went around the dark side of the Moon, preventing any contact.
We lose track of the team on Saturday, save for any surprises as to who travels or stays behind.
But that's not to say that we don't have lots of things to talk about. Let's take a look at what we should be expecting out of the game.
Let's start with Peterson. We know he's not playing, we know he's going to be out until his hand is functional again, so we can move on. Jack Del Rio says:
He's playing a little bit of a game here with the Bills, Jack dosen't want them to know who to game plan for, so he's throwing out the idea that Durrant and Iwuh will take the load. In all actuality, we should see a combination of Smith at MLB, Durrant at OLB, and Iwuh taking turns filling in as needed. Nothing particularly fancy, but the three of them should fill in nicely for Peterson. What we lose out of Mike Peterson is his leadership and experience.
Losing Mathis would be a problem, only because he's going to be the man in charge of covering Lee Evans. I think that Brian Williams could do a good job if asked, and from what I'm seeing I think Williams is having the better season. We'd activate Aaron Glenn and have him take the spot if Mathis is out. We need Rashean healthy more than we need him in this game, despite the deep threat of Evans.
I'm not sure what's up with John Henderson, other than that he was given permission by the Jaguars to miss practice on wednesday, just like last week. I don't know what he's got going on, but as long as he's ready to play he can take all the time he needs.
Greg Estandia (aka the real Matt Jones) is participating fully in practice.
John Broussard is still suffering from a hurt ankle from two weeks ago. I'd imagine that he's active for this week, but used sparingly.
Fred Taylor is limited as well, suffering from a thigh contusion, he's limited but I expect him to play.
Clearly we'll know more this afternoon when the Friday Injury Report comes out.
On the Bills side, the big name is Marshawn Lynch, who will not play. It's a matter now of double covering Evans and blitzing Losman. Seems pretty simple.
The Jaguars average 322.6 total yards of offense, the Bills average 374.7 offensive yards allowed. Of course, that includes a game against the Patriots, so those numbers might be skewed a bit.
The Bills average 264.4 total yards of offense, the Jaguars allow only 351.4. Wait, that's a huge difference. Well, I guess you could discount the Saints game, considering that the Jaguars are better now than they were then.
Ok, clearly these stat's aren't as useful as we'd like. Let's see what the much smarter folks over at Football Outsiders http://www.footballoutsiders.com/]
Ah, here we go. David Garrard is the 5th best quarterback in the NFL according to their fancy Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement system. They say:
Their 'Defense Adjusted Value over Average" system that uses game situation and league average to rank teams has the Jaguars as the 8th best team in the league ( 9th on offense, 17th on Defense, 9th on Special teams)
As a comparison, the Bills are 19th overall (23rd on offense, 18th on defense, 4th on Special Teams).
Buffalo Offense v. Jaguars Defense:
Anthony Thomas will be the primary running threat with Marshawn Lynch out. Thomas is a "downhill" runner that'll attack the Jaguars up the middle. Especially with Peterson out. The Bills running game is pretty limited without Lynch, so I don't expect to see too much out of Thomas. John Henderson and Grady Jackson will only need an average day against the run to shut down the middle lanes, so I'm not too concerned.
The passing game could be another story. Every quarterback that's faced the Jaguars has gotten over 200 yards passing, so Losman could get a few yards. Because we'll be able to stop the running game without adding players to the "box", I don't worry too much about the big play from Lee Evans, even if Mathis is out of the game. The Jaguars will probably bring a lot of heat against Losman probably more than they usually do, due to the limited ability of the Buffalo offense. If the Jaguars want to beat the Colts, they need to get some momentum out of their pass-rush, so I'd watch for some zone blitzes and some unusual blitz packages in order to confuddle Losman and force a turnover.
Buffalo Defense v. Jaguars Offense:
The running game will feature the usual combination of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Speaking of Jones-Drew, let's watch another reason why he's awesome.
I'd imagine that we see 30-40 run plays as we attempt to grind the Buffalo defense. Opposing this will be the Buffalo defense, and Strong Safety Donte Whitner as the featured threat to the running game. He's like the Bob Sanders of the Bills defense, and should be respected. Of course, I'm not saying that he'll stop our running game, just that they'll try.
David Garrard is no Tom Brady, but he's an effective enough passer to be respected. As long as David doesn't turn the ball over and makes the 3rd down conversions, he'll keep the Jags on top of the Bills. The Bills don't bring a lot of heat (only 9 sacks all season) , so he'll have plenty of time to throw the ball. I'd imagine that we continue the trend of having Jones-Drew and our Tight Ends be our leading receivers, though Reggie Williams has bee on fire the last two weeks, so there could be some deep passes.
Buffalo has a fantastic special teams unit. They are ranked 4th overall and can make a big return every time they get the ball. We cannot allow a big special teams play, as we've lost in the past when we do so. Fundamentals are key.
That's your preview, I'll be back with the pre-game on Sunday, as well as the world famous Live Blog!
Don't forget to visit the fine folks over at Buffalo Rumblings