Jaguars vs Broncos: 3 Matchups to watch
1. Jaguars O-Line vs Denver pass rush
The Jaguars will have absolutely no chance of winning this Sunday if their offensive line cannot slow down the pass rush of the Broncos. The Broncos have taken down opposing QBs 35 times this year - that's more than any other team in the NFL. Only the Jaguars would have the misfortune of playing the team that leads the league in sacks 2 weeks in a row (the Bills led the league in sacks heading into week 12). Despite the Bills being the best team in the NFL in terms of taking down the QB through 11 weeks of football, the Jaguars only allowed 2 sacks in week 12. However, this Broncos pass rush is a different monster entirely. They boast perhaps the greatest pass rusher of our era in Von Miller, who has 12.5 sacks on the year. Oh, and they also have this guy named DeMarcus Ware - you may have heard of him. Ware has 137 career sacks, which puts him at number eight on the all-time sack list. Ware has only 3 sacks in 2016, but he missed 5 weeks in the middle of the season with a forearm fracture. They'll also deploy Derrick Wolfe, whom they paid a pretty penny to keep this offseason. He has 5.5 sacks in 2016. The Broncos have a ferocious pass rush, but if the Jaguars are to have any shot at competing in this one then they'll have to protect Blake Bortles. Jaguars fans can take solace in the fact that the team's O-Line hasn't allowed Bortles to be sacked more than twice in a game since Nathaniel Hackett took over as offensive coordinator.
2. Jaguars secondary vs Broncos passing attack
The Broncos are not known to have a prolific passing attack, but they have been fairly effective passing the ball over the last month of the season. And they've needed to pass the ball because with out C.J. Anderson their running game has been abysmal. Over the past 4 games Trevor Siemian has averaged 37 attempts and 296 yards per game through the air, while throwing 7 TDs and 4 INTs. Those numbers are barely reminiscent of what Denver's passing attack looked like to start 2016, but circumstances change and teams adjust. These Broncos have perhaps the best WR tandem in football. The duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have combined for 121 catches, 1,568 yards, and 9 TDs through 11 games in 2016. What makes the two receivers so great together is their complimentary skill sets. Emmanuel Sanders is the smaller spark plug who can run every route and catches seemingly everything, while Demaryuis Thomas is the big bodied freak who can out run you or out muscle you for the ball. This Broncos passing attack may however face their toughest test of the season in Jacksonville this weekend. The Jaguars secondary has been an elite unit in 2016. They're giving up only 204 yards per game through the air - good for 3rd best in the NFL. And they've got the best defensive rookie in football in Jalen Ramsey, and one of the better young veterans in the game at cornerback in Prince Amukamara, not to mention Tashaun Gipson who had an interception stolen from his last week due to a phantom pass interference call. This will be a terrific game within the game all day and is definitely a matchup to keep your eye on.
3. Broncos O-Line vs Jaguars pass rush
The Jaguars pass rush has struggled for much of the season, but they seem to be finding life as of late and will be key to getting the Jaguars off the field on third down against the Broncos this Sunday. Last week in Buffalo the Jaguars got to Tyrod Taylor in the backfield 5 times and consistently made it difficult for the Bills to maintain drives. Malik Jackson seems to really be finding his groove as of late - he's recorded 3.5 sacks in the last 4 weeks, while Yannick Ngakoue leads all rookies in sacks with 6. They'll be facing a much maligned Broncos O-Line that has given up 31 sacks in 2016, the fifth most in the NFL. While the Jaguars pass rush is heating up the Broncos pass protection is heading in the opposite direction. They've given up 11 sacks over the past two weeks. If the Jaguars pass rush can get the Broncos offense off schedule then the Jags will have a good shot to hold the Broncos to under 20 points in this one.
These three matchups will be key, but none of this will matter if the Jaguars continue to beat themselves with mental mistakes. Unforced errors that lead to turnovers and negative plays have haunted the Jaguars in 2016 -- if they continue to beat themselves this week it could get ugly at the Bank on Sunday.
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