The Atlanta Falcons (8-5) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night, as the Falcons make their playoff push under head coach Mike Smith, who will be on the sidelines despite reporting chest pains on Monday.
A Charlotte-area hospital cleared Smith to go back to work, and the fourth-year coach said he is fine as Atlanta battles for a wild card spot in the playoffs, or perhaps a division title, as they trail the New Orleans Saints by two games.
On Sunday, the Falcons outscored the lowly Panthers 24-0 in the second half after being down 23-7 at halftime. The Falcons' second-half comeback was led by quarterback Matt Ryan who threw for 232 yards and three scores.
The Falcons may have taken the Panthers lightly, and will try to avoid doing the same against Jacksonville. Running back Michael Turner said We can not sleep on the Jaguars, according to ESPN's George Smith.
The Jaguars are seeking to build off perhaps their best victory of the season when they scored 41 unanswered points in a blowout win over the Buccaneers last week. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for two touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes, setting a franchise scoring record of four touchdowns in a game.
Jones-Drew is 170 yards away from a career high of 1,391 rushing yards set in 2009.
Still, it has been a difficult season for the Jaguars. The club fired head coach Jack Del Rio, and announced the sale of the team in the same day. Sources said that Del Rio was almost begging to get fired. Interim head coach Mel Tucker seems to be making the best of a difficult situation, and Sunday's win was a morale boost.
Jacksonville started the season with a good defense, but things have taken a bad turn over the past several games. The secondary has been depleted by injured cornerbacks, while the front seven have struggled to contain the run.
Jaguars' wide receiver Mike Thomas (concussion) was ruled out of the game, along with wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) and defensive end Matt Roth (concussion). Jaguars' kicker Josh Scobee is questionable for the game.
Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, who went to the Pro Bowl last season as an alternate, is doubtful with a knee injury, along with fellow cornerback Kevlin Hayden (toe). Linebacker Stephen Nicolas (quad), defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ankle), and offensive tackle Will Svitek (groin) are listed as questionable.
OVER/UNDER: 42 POINTS.
PREDICTION: The Falcons are playing at home, where they are very good, and the Jaguars are playing on the road, where they are very bad. Though the Jaguars have shown they are capable of putting up points as they did last week, and of being able to knock off a playoff contender when they defeated the Ravens, it will be a very difficult matchup. The Falcons are playing with confidence, and the Jaguars may not have an answer for Ryan, who has an exceptional target in wide receiver Roddy White.
PREDICTED SCORE: Falcons over Jags, 21-10.