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Jaguars vs Saints: Thursday Night Football picks and staff roundtable for Week 7

Our staff previews Jacksonville’s upcoming Week 7 game at New Orleans.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Big Cat Country’s weekly roundtable, where our staff previews each Jacksonville Jaguars game and makes picks for each NFL game.

The Jaguars are 3-point underdogs against the New Orleans Saints in Week 7, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Thursday Night Football matchup kicks off at 8:15 p.m. ET at Caesars Superdome.

Considering Trevor Lawrence’s knee injury, which Jaguars offensive player needs to step it up the most?

Dillon Appleman: It’s not a sexy pick but I’m going to go with Luke Fortner. The second-year center hasn’t been a model of consistency this season, but he can flash from time to time. It will be important for him to show up in this one as his communication and blitz recognition pre-snap will be vital to keeping Trevor Lawrence out of harm's way.

Jefferson Gibson: Travis Etienne will be a great asset against the Saints, but his snap count is already uncharacteristically high, and he leads the league in attempts with 113. If the Jaguars look to have a successful running attack -- not only against the Saints but for the rest of the season -- Tank Bigsby will have to step up.

Joseph Henry: If C.J. Beathard is the quarterback behind center Thursday night, it’s going to be a tall task for the whole offensive unit to elevate his play. I’ll throw some focus on Evan Engram, though. His ability to make big plays off short passes with yards after the catch could be a game-changer. Screens and crossers set Engram up for success, and that’s what I would expect Beathard’s offense to look like.

Travis Holmes: The easy answer would seem to be Travis Etienne, but the Saints are giving up only 96 yards per game (and one total touchdown) on the ground. Nevertheless, that is the task Jacksonville faces with a hobbled-at-best quarterback. Etienne may have to show up in a major way in the receiving game instead.

Gus Logue: I think this is gonna have to be a big Christian Kirk week. New Orleans is the only defense that hasn’t allowed a running back touchdown this season, and the Saints have surrendered just 171 total yards to tight ends (third-fewest). While Marshon Lattimore probably won’t shadow Calvin Ridley, Ridley will face tougher matchups on the perimeter than Kirk will out of the slot. Saints nickel Alontae Taylor has allowed 32 catches this year; the rest of the teams’ cornerbacks have combined to allow 33 catches.

Adam Snowden: Does Press Taylor count? Ha, just kidding...kinda. In all seriousness, Jacksonville’s entire offensive line needs to have their best game yet. Lawrence has been getting slammed with pressure week after week, and half of those turn out okay because of his elusiveness and ability to get the ball out quickly. While Lawrence will still have a healthy rocket on Thursday night, his knee will not be so lucky. Protecting him will be even more critical than before.

Henry Zimmer: The player the Jags should lean on in New Orleans is Travis Etienne. If Etienne could run cleanly against the Bills' defense, he should have an even better time against a lower-tier unit like the Saints’ defense.

Considering Tyson Campbell’s hamstring injury, which Saints pass-catcher scares you the most?

Dillon: I think we’re all rooting for Montaric Brown tonight but it’s not breaking news that he struggled in place of Campbell down the stretch of that Colts game. He particularly had issues with stuff downfield. That’s why Rashid Shaheed is the scariest of the Saints pass-catchers. He leads the NFL in aDOT (average depth of target) for players with over 20 targets on the season, so safety help over the top will be vital tonight.

Jefferson: Both receivers are an extreme threat in the passing game. Olave is an explosive young player, and let’s not forget that Michael Thomas was the best receiver in the league just four years ago. Despite Thomas’s pedigree, Olave is the pass catcher that scares me the most. He has six catches of 20-plus yards (Thomas has three) and two catches of 40-plus yards (Thomas has zero). We saw how the Texans beat the Jaguars multiple times on deep balls in Week 3 -- I think that Olave has that big play ability that can really take the top off this injured secondary.

Joseph: I’ve got a friend who’s a Saints fan and this answer is for him. Wide receiver Rashid Shaheed is a legit deep threat, and I think he can cause some serious problems for the Jaguars secondary. Lots of warranted attention will be given to Olave and Thomas, but Shaheed has big-play potential that Jacksonville needs to be aware of.

Travis: After watching the last four Saints games, I think I will go with Rashid Shaheed, the speedy receiver from Weber State. Chris Olave will likely spend significant time matched up against Darious Williams and Tre Herndon. But the matchup of Montaric “Buster” Brown against a speedy, field-stretching wideout is what will likely keep Mike Caldwell up late Wednesday night.

Gus: The big-play threat of Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed worries me far more than the shot-yardage reliability of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. I’m interested to see how often Mike Caldwell uses two-high safety structures to help out an injured cornerback unit and take away shots to Olave/Shaheed. Caldwell usually prefers keeping an extra safety close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run; Dallas is the only team with a higher rate of stacked boxes on defense than Jacksonville this season.

Adam: In complete seriousness, whoever is matched up against Montaric Brown. The Saints have an arsenal of good weapons, and the Jags have not been one to deploy shadow coverage on the opposing team’s WR1. Chris Olave is their most talented wideout (which Derek Carr appeared to realize last Saturday when he fed Olave with 10 targets), but Darious Williams should give Olave a good challenge. An Olave/Brown matchup is not one I’d want to place money on Brown winning, however. While feeding Olave or Michael Thomas against Campbell’s backup could absolutely pick apart the defense, a deep completion to Rashid Shaheed is something I expect to see on Thursday. Hopefully, the Jags can put consistent pressure on Carr, who has been the biggest hindrance to the Saints passing game thus far.

Henry: On the Saints’ side, veteran receiver Michael Thomas should be someone the team looks to step up. Alvin Kamara will get his weekly, but will Thomas be able to step in a meaningful way? Thomas has no touchdowns so far but has at least four catches in every game this season.

Final score prediction?

Dillon: Jaguars 23, Saints 21

Jefferson: Jaguars 20, Saints 13

Joseph: Jaguars 24, Saints 20

Travis: Jaguars 20, Saints 16

Gus: Jaguars 22, Saints 15

Adam: Jaguars 23, Saints 17

Henry: Jaguars 18, Saints 10

Here are our staff’s picks.

What are your Thursday Night Football predictions, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!