Jaguars vs Lions: 3 Matchups to watch
1. The Jaguars ground attack vs Detroit's front seven
The Jaguars have played 9 games so far in 2016 and have surpassed 100 yards on the ground only three times. At this point in the season it is abundantly clear that Blake Bortles can't carry the load for the Jaguars offense (11 INTS, 4 FUM), which means in order for the Jaguars to win games they must be able to run the ball, which is again something that they have shown the inability to do on a regular basis in 2016. The Lions front seven features some impressive talent, but the unit is only middle of the road when it comes to stopping the run. They give up 4.3 yards per carry and 107 yards a game on the ground. If the Jaguars hope to avoid costly interceptions they'll need to find their way on the ground this week. In the first game of the Nathaniel Hackett era the offense committed to running the ball and did it well, rushing for over 200 yards in Kansas City, but their follow up effort against the Texans last week left a lot to be desired. The Jaguars two feature backs rushed the ball only 9 times each in the Jaguars loss to the Texans last week, a number that will need to greatly increase if they hope to steal a win against a Detroit team that sits atop one of the toughest divisions in football.
2. Blake Bortles vs Blake Bortles
Blake Bortles has certainly been better in the two games that he's played with Nathaniel Hackett calling plays. He's thrown 2 TD passes in both games and thrown only 1 INT in each. While you can point to several passes that could have been intercepted in both games, it's clear that Bortles is more comfortable under Hackett than he was with Olson. He's still not playing at a level that will help the Jaguars win games, but he is showing improvement in his efficiency. Bortles did throw his third opening drive interception of 2016 last week -- he'll certainly need to avoid that this week for the Jaguars to not fall into a hole early. If Bortles can improve upon the last two weeks against a Detroit defense that ranks 26th in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus and is giving up over 270 yards and 2 TDs through the air per game this year, then the Jaguars will have ample opportunity to win this football game. Fans don't have much confidence in Blake Bortles, and it's not clear at this point if Blake Bortles has any confidence in himself as he seemingly finds new ways to make terrible plays each week. While the running game must get going, so too must Blake Bortles avoid the big mistake.
3. Allen Robinson & Allen Hurns vs Darius Slay & Nevin Lawson
Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns entered the 2016 season being touted as one of the best WR duos in the NFL. Things haven't gone smoothly for the pair of third year receivers in 2016, but they'll look to change that against a Lions secondary that lacks star power and consistent play. Hurns has found the end zone only twice in 2016, while his running mate Robinson has caught just over 50% of the passes thrown his way in 2016. They'll likely be matched up with Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson. Slay stands 6' while his counter part Lawson stands only 5'9'' tall -- Both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns stand 6'3'' tall. These two cornerbacks are no slouches, especially Slay who is beginning to garner national attention for his play, but the Allen's height advantage should prove troublesome for the Lions this week. The Jaguars two stud receivers will need to play big against the 5-4 Lions in order for the Jaguars to have any shot at improving to 3-7. Robinson's recent improvement under OC Nathaniel Hackett could be a sign of big things to come -- He's caught 15 passes for 183 yards and 2 TDs in the last two weeks.
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