If there was ever a ‘get right’ opponent for a team that in the words of their own quarterback has looked “lost”, the 2023 Carolina Panthers are it. Of course, putting those words on electronic paper makes me nervous. The Tampa Bay debacle last week wasn’t supposed to be just that, and yet, I found myself going for a Christmas Eve walk during the fourth quarter. The only faith I have this team will get their stuff together feels totally blind.
Of course, if the Jaguars don’t beat themselves on New Year’s Eve, I’d still put $100 down they’ll win by at least two scores against Carolina. Feel free to read my keys to victory below (I tried to incorporate some humor in there), but if you’re feeling the holiday daze, I’ll bottom line it for you: The one metric that will bring home the W is if the Jaguars can break even in the turnover battle.
Here are some more thoughts:
1. Break even in the turnover battle: Yep, I’m not even saying they need to force more turnovers than they give up. Carolina has two wins on the season. The Jaguars are more talented. Just break even. Don’t give the Panthers the game. Two hands on the ball. Throw it away when the play isn’t there. When Bryce Young gets a ball tipped up and Devin Lloyd has a chance to pick it off, Devin needs to catch it. If we get in decent field goal range, and it’s third and long, just take a knee. After all, you can’t give it away if you literally don’t try. Besides, we have a reliable, well-paid veteran kicker who is automa … oh, wait.
2. Make all your field goals:
Dear Brandon McManus,
Do your job.
Every single Jaguars fan
PS But seriously, do your freaking job.
3. Give Travis Etienne the damn ball.
Our most productive player in the first half of the season didn’t die. Yet, he only had six rushing attempts all game against Tampa Bay. That comes after only 10 rushing attempts against the Ravens, 14 against the Browns, and 11 against the Bengals. Not surprisingly, in the team’s seven losses Etienne has averaged a total of 11.5 carries per game with not a single of those games eclipsing the 20-carry mark. On the other hand, Etienne has averaged 19.25 carries over the course of the Jags’ eight wins. I get D’Ernest Johnson has played more of a role in the backfield. I also understand our offensive line has sucked. And I’m also aware the Jags haven’t led since the Bengals game, and throwing more than running is the logical move when you’re down. But for the love of any deity you believe in, Etienne is arguably the best offensive player this team has, and he’s not even getting a chance. Give Etienne the damn ball, or watch out, he may just enter the transfer portal and play for the Titans.*
I know. There are probably like 20 other keys to victory for this team, like tackling. What else do you think this team needs to do to beat Carolina?
*Sorry, Gators fans.