The two teams are both leading their divisions but are currently on opposite trajectories. Baltimore is in the midst of a three-game win streak while the Jags have dropped two straight and have lost their stranglehold over the AFC South in the process.
Now, Jacksonville will have to put together a complete performance in order to avoid a third consecutive defeat, but it will be a tall task.
The Jaguars are decimated by injuries at the moment. Not only did they lose Christian Kirk last week, but they will also be without two starters in the secondary and are working with a patchwork offensive line that will be tasked with keeping a hobbled Trevor Lawrence clean in the face of the league’s best pass rush.
Jaguars have ruled out CB Tyson Campbell and S Andre Cisco. Something to monitor: A back injury to LS Ross Matiscik. pic.twitter.com/535N7G7soT— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) December 15, 2023
The odds are certainly not in the home team’s favor, but with a couple of big contributions from key players, the Jags could reestablish themselves as legit threats in the AFC playoff picture.
Here are the three biggest X-Factors for the Jacksonville Jaguars tonight.
With Andre Cisco set to miss tonight’s contest with a groin injury, fifth-year safety Andrew Wingard is likely set to start in his place for the second time this season.
In that lone start back in Week 8 against the Steelers, Wingard acquitted himself quite well in Cisco’s stead as he tallied six tackles and picked off Mitchell Trubisky in the fourth quarter. That interception helped set up a field goal drive to give the Jags a two-score lead that ultimately iced the game.
That type of impact is going to be needed yet again in this one, as the depleted Jacksonville secondary looks to step up after two straight weeks of struggles against the pass.
That said, Lamar Jackson is obviously a much different animal than Mitchell Trubisky. He’s one of the frontrunners in the MVP conversation and is playing his best football right now.
If the secondary is going to hold their own against a player of Jackson’s caliber, Wingard is going to have to play a big role.
Zay Jones is coming off a rough outing last week against the Browns where he was targeted a whopping 14 times but was only able to come down with five of them for a measly 29 yards.
Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville passing attack will need Jones to have a bounce back effort against the Ravens if they’re going to be able to hang with the class of the AFC tonight.
It’s likely that Jones will be in line for another target-heavy outing in this one too. Not just because we know Lawrence’s connection with Jones has always been strong, but with Christian Kirk now on IR, their rapport is going to become that much more important during this important finishing stretch to the season.
Luckily for Jones, he had the biggest game of his career against the Baltimore Ravens last season in a game that helped turn the Jags’ season around. If he can recapture some of that magic from a year ago, Zay could be a huge X-factor when deciding the outcome of this one.
For the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull off the home upset over the Baltimore Ravens this evening, they’re going to have to get big performances out of the stars of their defense in Josh Allen and Darious Williams.
Allen and Williams have been the most impactful players on the Jacksonville defense all season long, and the level of play week in and week out seems to play a huge role in the outcome of games.
The numbers back that up too.
Josh Allen is having a career year as he is now up to 13.5 sacks in 2023, which is just one away from the Jacksonville single-season record. Nine of those sacks have come in the Jags’ eight victories while just four have come in their five losses.
That same win/loss impact can be seen in Darious Williams’ play too, as the team is 5 and 1 in games in which Williams has either an interception or multiple pass deflections. That makes them just 3 and 4 when he does not reach those statistical marks.
If the Jaguars are going to get out of their defensive funk in a big game tonight, they have got to have their big time players making big time plays when they’re there to be made.
Who do you think will prove to be an X-factor tonight?