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 underdogs of 2.5 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Assuming Trevor Lawrence won’t play this week, which player or unit on offense has to step it up most in his absence?
Caitlin Connor: With or without Trevor on Sunday, the offensive line needs to step it up. Hopefully Cam is back this week to ignite that spark, but regardless, they need to allow Beathard the opportunity to open up the run and pass game.
Travis Holmes: Brandon McManus, or the kicker formerly known as BigManus to my circle of Jaguars fanatics, has to step it up the most. In what may end up being a lower-scoring game, the Jaguars simply can’t afford a continuation of this ongoing trifecta of red zone offense inefficiencies, missed field goals, and offensive turnovers. The field-goal game is frankly the simplest to resolve while having a huge impact. Hoping BigManus can re-earn that nickname starting this week.
Gus Logue: There’s been plenty of clips of Luke Fortner circling Jags Twitter this week, and he’ll need to immediately improve this week with Vita Vea and Tampa Bay’s stout front seven on deck. Travis Etienne spoke on Wednesday about not letting Vea “wreck the game” -- it starts up front with Fortner. Jacksonville’s passing offense needs more support from its rushing attack, especially this week with Lawrence’s status in the air.
Henry Zimmer: If Trevor Lawrence cannot go, the offensive line is going to have to step up in the run game. The Jags have gone four straight games without 100 yards rushing. The team combined for 128 against the Titans, though Lawrence added two touchdowns with his legs. Travis Etienne has managed over 60 yards once since rushing for 128 against the Bills (when he ran for 79 against the Steelers). The run game has to be jumpstarted, and that all begins up front.
Which version of the Jaguars defense will we see in Tampa Bay: the one that allowed 171 passing yards to Lamar Jackson last week, or the one that allowed over 600 yards to Jake Browning and Joe Flacco the two weeks prior?
Caitlin: I think we’ll see the defense put up a solid performance. They seem to know what is at stake and I think they’ll get the job done. Hopefully we’ll see Cisco and Campbell this weekend.
Travis: I believe which defense we see will rest upon the health of the secondary come Sunday. If the team holds Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco out another week, Baker Mayfield may have another big day to follow his perfect passer rating game last week versus the Packers. If all hands are on deck, however. I see this as a much tougher, lower-yardage matchup that will come down to which team runs the ball best and turns it over the least. I think the true Jags defense shows up this week.
Gus: I’m expecting another strong defensive performance after last week’s “we did everything we could” job against Lamar Jackson. The Bucs rank 8th in EPA per dropback but 18th in dropback success rate; they also rank 23rd in EPA per rush but 30th in rushing success rate. In other words, Tampa Bay’s offense relies on chunk plays. The Jaguars should be able to capitalize on that inconsistency (so long as Mike Evans is held in check downfield).
Henry: I think the Jaguars are more in line to hold Baker Mayfield down than let him explode like he did last week. Mayfield only has two games over 300 yards passing, and in the past four weeks, has passed for under 200 yards twice. He has taken 33 sacks this year, including five last week to the Packers. This could very well be a big Josh Allen and Travon Walker day. Mayfield may not turn the ball over as much as he once did, but he is certainly sack-prone. The Jaguars need that and will hopefully keep Mayfield down enough to limit his overall passing.
Final score prediction?
Caitlin: Jaguars 28, Bucs 17
Travis: Bucs 20, Jaguars 16
Gus: Bucs 22, Jaguars 15
Henry: Jaguars 28, Bucs 21
Here are our staff’s Tallysight picks for the full slate of games this week.
What are your Week 16 predictions, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!