The Jacksonville Jaguars have had an extra week to prepare. The Oakland Raiders are coming off an emotional loss. Is this a ripe opportunity to take Jacksonville? I say that's a bad idea, so let's take a closer look at why.
This is a point spread I don't understand at all. In the offseason, the Raiders were 5.5 point favorites. The look-ahead line last week was -4.5. It re-opened at -5, but early money actually came in on the Jaguars (odds from SBRforum). I know this move isn't based on any mismatches on the field, so what is the thinking here? Does a bye week really mean that much for the Jaguars? Do some expect a letdown after Oakland came up short in Atlanta?
This is going to be a short segment. There isn't a single statistical advantage the Jaguars have on the Raiders. I've written about the ineptness of Jacksonville before, so I feel I should simply copy and paste at this point.
The Raiders don't have the greatest run defense and statistically, they are a bit below average this season. Perhaps MJD breaks out and has a monster day, but we've seen that story before. In the past, his effectiveness on the ground gave Jacksonville a chance to win games, but if it isn't coupled with a solid defensive effort, it becomes irrelevant.
The lone potential bright spot for the Jags comes with their red zone defense. Despite getting completely owned up and down the field, they have been able to get some stops inside the 20. However, we are nowhere close to calling this unit a "bend-but-not-break" defense.
I'm not sure what the ratings will be for this game outside of their respective markets, but this has the makings of one ugly football game. Oakland's defense has not been good this year and they rank below average in every meaningful category. The problem for Jacksonville is they simply can't take advantage of these situations.
The majority of offense in the air has come from MJD and Marcedes Lewis (28 of 34 passes). They've gotten very little production from their wide receivers (42 of 96 passes), despite having one of the top prospects in the game in Justin Blackmon.
How much of this can be attributed to Blaine Gabbert? I'd say a lot. I truly expected a bigger jump in development from him this year, and he did show some promise in the preseason, but the numbers don't lie. He's been one of the least effective QB's in the league thus far.
If they hope to win this game, they're primary option will be over the middle since the Raiders linebackers haven't been the best this year.
Turning the Corner?
I've consistently bashed Oakland this year, but I have always maintained that the schematic changes they made in the offseason were a step in the right direction. Perhaps they took one of those steps coming out of the bye because the effort they put forth in Atlanta was very impressive.
There are still a few issues though. Carson Palmer continues to take two steps forward and two steps back. You can't throw a soft out pattern late in the game against a corner like Asante Samuel. I'd understand if you were a younger QB, but as a veteran that just can't happen.
They are also not getting enough production out of Darren McFadden. This is one of the elite running backs in the game, but he's been rendered meaningless this season.
Both will have a great opportunity to get back on track against a very disappointing defense. Jacksonville has been unspeakably bad on that side of the ball, and I highly doubt the return of Daryl Smith is going to suddenly turn everything around. He is a welcomed addition, but their problems go beyond personnel.
As long as the books are going to offer us a reasonable point spread in Jaguars games, I'm going to continue to take it. At this point, they've almost become an automatic fade. I don't really care if they had a full month to prepare for this game, there has been very little sign that this team is capable of putting it all together for an entire game.
The sharps have backed them three times at home this year, and lost every single time. Early line movement suggests they are spotting value once again this week. I still don't see it. Take the Raiders.
NFL Pick: OAK -4.