The Jacksonville Jaguars opened up as 7.5 point favorites against the Buffalo Bills for Sunday’s NFL playoff game and the line has since moved to as much a -9 at some places. To say the least, most people seem to think that the Jaguars are going to win and win by more than a touchdown (including me!).
So that begs the question: What’s your biggest concern for Sunday’s game?
For me, it’s the offense. Be it running the ball or which Blake Bortles we’ll get, I’m a bit nervous about how they’ve played the last two weeks. The Bills run defense is bad, but despite their ranking, the Jaguars run game is actually not that good. While the team ranks No. 1 in total rushing yards, it’s boosted a bit by Blake Bortles’ scramble yards and some special teams plays.
If you look deeper at the numbers, it’s a mediocre run game that struggles with explosive plays. If you exclude quarterback “carries”, reverses, and even Corey Grant’s carries (because I don’t reaaaaaaly feel like charting it out) the Jaguars have 434 carries for 1,680 yards, which amounts to 3.87 yards per carry. Even if you include Grant’s raw numbers you end up with 4.07 yards per carry and 1,928 yards, which ranks in the 19-21 range and 7th, respectively. Essentially the Jaguars run game tries to grind you down and run clock.
It works great when you have a defense like the Jaguars and they’re forcing turnovers, but that’s tough to rely on. You can’t just consistently run your back into a stacked box and expect to generate enough offense to win the game, which is why we’ve seen Bortles throw the ball probably a lot more than most expected him to. Bortles finished the season with 523 attempts, only 102 less than last season (about six less per game), so the Jaguars have clearly adjusted to how defenses are playing them.
Against the Bills on Sunday, their rush defense isn’t very good so you’re likely to see them stack the box and dare Bortles to throw into their secondary that has generated quite a few turnovers. For me, that makes me a little nervous, especially with how cold Bortles has been the last two games.
While I believe the Jaguars will win the game comfortably, there’s still that thing in the pit of your stomach that scares you. I don’t remember which guy on The Ringer Podcast said it about Blake Bortles, but I thought it perfectly described how I feel: Bortles isn’t the worst quarterback in the league, but on any given day he can be.
My concern for Sunday is the offense ends up one dimensional because they struggle to run the ball and we end up there.