This week, the Jags face the Chicago Bears, one of the few teams that have looked consistently worse than the Jaguars this season. The 1-4 Bears are coming off of a loss to the Colts, a team that the Jaguars beat in London almost two weeks ago for their first victory of the season. They currently have unknowns all over the roster, including Brian Hoyer at QB, rookie RB Jordan Howard and a hobbled defense that, despite average statistics, has looked vulnerable all season. On the other hand, the Jags looked like they fixed some of their problems against Indianapolis and look to keep up the momentum.
On offense, the Jags need to do what they did in London. TJ Yeldon averaged 5.1 yards per carry against the Colts and looked really solid, especially with the coaching staff finally implementing a running game that suits his style. Chris Ivory looked better but still only averaged 3.6 YPC and looked sluggish and indecisive at times. Yeldon is the clear #1, but the staff should continue to split the workload as they did in London (Yeldon had 14 carries to Ivory’s 8). This helps mask the poor play coming from Blake Bortles, who made less errors in London and was able to deliver a victory to Duval. The Allen duo looked really good last game and can exploit Chicago’s weak secondary if the running game gives them breathing room.
Defensively, the team has to avoid letting Brian Hoyer beat them like he was able to last year for the Houston Texans. He has another dynamic receiver with him in Alshon Jeffrey, who averages 17.9 yards per catch on 22 catches this year. He’s a big receiver with an insane catch radius, but putting an athlete like Jalen Ramsey on him should help slow him down. However, the primary focus for the defense should be rookie RB Jordan Howard, who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 51 attempts this year. He’s a bigger back who likes to get physical, but Myles Jack and Telvin Smith can neutralize him.
Last game, I said that I refused to pick the Jags again until they showed me that they wanted to play like a legitimate NFL team. They did that in London, and so they get my support.
Prediction: JAX 28, CHI 17
It’s simple. The Jaguars need this one. It’s tough to say but after only playing 4 games, the Jaguars are in desperation mode. Or at the very least they should be. If the Jaguars end up losing to the Bears, their next game is against the 4-1 Oakland Raiders who have one of the best offenses in the NFL. If we lose out next two games we would be 1-5, which would more than likely cost our coaches their jobs.
The Bears defense is average at best this year. The Jaguars seemingly have the better defense, especially with the addition of Aaron Colvin into our secondary. The deciding factor will be the offenses.
The Bears have been surprisingly efficient starting Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Chicago attempts to spread the field, but differently than what we have seen so far this season. They have multiple big targets at receiver and they like to run, long, downfield routes and dish the ball of to their running backs in the flat. We need to play smart at linebacker and keep our slower linebackers off the field. This is a much-improved Bears offense with Cutler on the sideline because they protect the ball much better. The Jaguars will need to effectively put pressure on Hoyer and limit turnovers when we have the ball.
If Blake builds on his last performance, we should move to 2-3 on the season. Don’t let me down, Blake.
Prediction: JAX 31, CHI 24.
Coming off their first win followed by the bye week, the Jaguars are in a good position to improve their record to 2-3. Having an extra week to prepare for this game and facing a struggling Chicago Bears team, I think the Jags come in with the edge. Here are my keys to victory:
Offensively the Jaguars have struggled this year, and just can't seem to hit on the explosive plays down the field like we're used to seeing. Allen Robinson needs to reintegrate his explosiveness from last year while Allen Hurns needs to keep being the clutch receiver he is and come up with some big grabs on 3rd down to sustain drives. The key to this game is finding a way to get and keep Blake Bortles in ryhythm and have at least some sort of a balanced attack on offense. Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon have been terrible this season and with Ivory being payed to be the "work horse" he needs to provide that balance if the Jags want to reach full potential offensively. With starting LG Luke Loeckel being placed in IR after a horrific knee injury, journeyman guard Patrick Omameh will need to have a good game in order for this to happen. Omameh has been praised as a run blocker but has some questions in pass protection. With defensive tackle Eddie Goldman not practicing this week and is questionable for Sunday, the rushing attack needs to take advantage.
Defensively it all starts with slowing down rookie running back Jordan Howard. Howard comes into the game averaging 5.8 yards per carry, not to mention he's coming off two straight 100 yard rushing performances. Stopping him and keeping quarterback Brian Hoyer from having a balanced attack will be vital, which leads me to my next point; keeping Hoyer and the Bears one dimensional on offense. Jared Odrick is making his return after being sidelined the last two weeks with a tricep injury and will play a huge role up front stopping the run. Yannick Ngakoue has been huge for the Jags defense this year and will need to play a big role in getting pressure on Hoyer this week with Dante Fowler not practicing with an illness, but is likely to play. If wide receiver Eddie Royal can't play as he hasn't practiced all week, that will at least help the secondary out with safety Tashaun Gibson being limited in practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday. All in all if the Jaguars can limit the running game and force Hoyer to beat them, they'll have their best chance at getting their second win of the season.
Prediction: JAX 27, CHI 13
The Jaguars seemingly found themselves in their last contest against the Colts, the same Colts that just beat the Bears and threw for 300+ yards. The Jaguars are a better team than the Bears and they have a lot more to play for. If the Jaguars can't get this win on the road then Gus Bradley's head will return to the chopping block and fans will be absolutely irate, not to mention they'll fall further behind in the race for the AFC South Crown.
The Jaguars have a young, impressive secondary that seems to get better ever week. They'll face the ever hot and cold Brian Hoyer who is currently on a hot streak, but they should be up to the task. The Jaguars offense should be able to take advantage of a banged up Bears defense that has looked highly vulnerable in 2016.
The Jaguars need a win and will get a convincing one on the road. Gus Bradley's road record improves to 5-21 (lol) and his seat cools for a second straight week.
Prediction: JAX 30, CHI 21
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