The Detroit Lions finally looked like the team we expected last week. The Jacksonville Jaguars on the other hand, gave us more of the same in their game against Green Bay. I don't anticipate much to change when the two meet up in Week 9 action.
MarketsThis is a game that wasn't on the board last week thanks to the injury to Blaine Gabbert, but it opened at -4 on Sunday. The funniest thing about this spread is that money has once again come in on Jacksonville moving it all the way down to -3.25 (odds from SBRforum).
I realize the Lions have not been good vs the spread this year and that the Jags have shown some fight over the last two weeks, but let's get real here. So-called "smart money" has bet the Jags as home dogs three times this year and lost each one of them. I've never heard of "4th's time a charm", so I have no trouble grabbing an affordable three with Detroit. Are the Lions "Back"?Heading into this season I fully expected Matt Stafford and company to light up the league with points. It wasn't only based on what they did last year, but it also had a lot to do with the increasing importance placed on the passing game. When you look at all the weapons on this Lions team, I figured they were in a prime position to dazzle.That clearly hasn't been the case this year. Stafford's mechanical problems and decision-making issues have been well-documented, but he's not the only one under scrutiny.Brandon Pettigrew has the physical abilities to be one of the best receiving tight ends in the league, but he has consistently dropped balls this year. Calvin Johnson is nursing a sore knee and hasn't looked himself this year. Finally, the running game has been a sore spot as Mikel LeShoure hasn't brought the kind of game-changing ability people were hoping for. For the second straight week he was parked on the bench in favor of Joique Bell.Last week, they made us forget all that as they went 12 for 16 on third down against a stingy Seahawks defense, and put up pretty big numbers in a come-from-behind win. Yet, even before last week this offense had been doing just fine by normal standards. They still managed to rank above average in rushing, passing, pass protection, on third down, and in the red zone. Just because they haven't put up 40+ points per game doesn't mean they are not having success.Defense: Advantage ... Lions?If you would have told me before the season that Detroit would have a better defense than the Jaguars after eight weeks I might have called you crazy. It's a given that Detroit hold the advantage on the defensive line, but what stands out the most is the fact that the Lions are number one in the entire NFL in red zone defense. Their schedule hasn't been the most difficult, but the Jaguars aren't about to flip that script this week either.MJD has already been ruled out, so once again the weight of the world will fall on Blaine Gabbert. Cecil Shorts has stepped up to provide a weapon opposite of Justin Blackmon, and Jennings has been serviceable in the back-field. The trouble comes when the the game is on the line.The Jags actually made a game of it vs the Packers, but in the second half they went three and out drive after drive. They are the single worst team on third down and pretty putrid in every other offensive category too. Even if the Lions are prone to giving up the big play in the passing game once in a while, I simply can't find any which way to back the Jaguars in this spot. They provide us with zero faith in their ability to move the ball or score points inside the 20. Bottom Line
Eight of Stafford's 16 wins have been 4th quarter come backs. Overall, he has nine game-winning drives under his belt. Jags defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will do his best to slow them down with a mix of cover-2 and man-to-man coverages, but if this game is close there's no question which side I'm backing. I like the Lions here and I didn't even hesitate when the line moved in Jacksonville's favor.NFL Pick: DET -3.