The St. Louis Rams hope to snap a three game slide, while the Jacksonville Jaguars seek an infusion of offense from recently reinstated receiver Justin Blackmon on Sunday afternoon at Edward Jones Dome.
Blackmon, a second-year receiver and the fifth overall draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, was suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and he returned to practice on Wednesday. Allowed to work by himself but not with the team during the suspension, Blackmon earned praise for his work during practice.
“He did really good,” head coach Gus Bradley said to the Florida Times-Union. “He did have one drop, but [he caught] all the rest that were thrown to him. And he made great play in the end zone.”
Last season, Blackmon had a team-high 64 receptions for 865 yards and five touchdowns, and should provide relief to current-leading receiver Cecil Shorts, along with quarterbacks Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert. Shorts is tied for the NFL lead with 51 targets, but hasn’t reached the endzone this season. Henne has thrown Jacksonville’s only touchdown pass, while Gabbert has tossed five interceptions and has been sacked 10 times.
Blackmon could also open up the Jaguars 31st ranked rushing game. Veteran Maurice Jones-Drew has gained 138 yards on 57 carries, but Jacksonville has been down big in most of their games, forcing the offense to the air. Jacksonville has gone 0-4, and lost by an average margin of 24.5 points.
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The worst loss came last week, a 37-3 drubbing at the hands of the AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts. Gabbert went 17-for-32 for 179 yards and three picks, and Shorts had seven catches for 61 yards.
A subplot in Sunday’s game involves the last place Jacksonville rushing defense, against the Rams last place rushing offense. Opponents have rushed for 165 yards a game against Jacksonville, while St. Louis has averaged 47.3 rushing yards a game.
More disparaging for the Rams is the lack of quality rushing opponents. Other than San Francisco, no opponent has ranked higher than 19th in the league in rushing.
Injuries to runningbacks Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, and tackles Jake Long and Chris Williams have severely hampered the Rams rushing attack, and put more pressure on fourth-year quarterback Sam Bradford.
Banged up from a 31-7 road loss to Dallas, St. Louis hosted the 49ers four days later and fell 35-11. Bradford went 19-for-41 for 202 yards, a touchdown and a pick, but was chased most of the game and sacked five times.
Despite their troubles the Rams are still the biggest favorite by point spread in Week Five, giving 12 points.
Coverage of the game starts at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch a live online stream by purchasing NFL Game Access here.
Betting Odds: St. Louis is favored by 12 points.
Over/Under: 41.5 points.
Prediction: St. Louis 20, Jacksonville 13