The Jaguars head home after a two-game road trip to take on the Lions, who, like the Jaguars, have earned just one win in 2020. A battle of one-win teams, head coaches Doug Marrone and Matt Patricia, are fighting for their livelihoods in this one.
To start previewing this game, let's take a look at the Jaguars' offense against the Lions' defense. Who has the advantage? Let's find out!
The Jaguars' offense started out with a bang in 2020, scoring 27 points and 30 points in the first two weeks of the season, respectively. They fell back down to earth in week three against the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football, accumulating just 14 points. Against the Bengals in week four, the offense had ups and downs but was able to put 23 points on the board. And then in week five in Houston, Jay Gruden's offense struggled mightily in the red zone. This offense is at its best when Gruden calls balanced drives. Getting rookie runningback James Robinson going early is key. It softens up the defense and gets the play-action game humming. Unfortunately, the Jaguars have fallen behind the last three weeks, and Jay Gruden has abandoned the run a bit hastily.
For the Lions' defense, it's been pretty ugly. They've allowed 31.8 points per game, the third-worst mark in football. Surrendering 170 yards per game on the ground, the inability to stop the run is Detroit's primary issue defensively. But they're also the worst team in football when it comes to pressuring the opposing QB, as evidenced by their 10.7 pressures per game. But they have been opportunistic in recent games. The Lions are plus-one when it comes to the turnover battle this season, thanks in large part to their three-interception performance against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals in week three. They were able to jump out to an early lead against the Saints in week four after a Danny Shelton tipped pass that fell into the waiting arms of Darryl Roberts in Saints' territory.
So, who has the advantage?
It'd be easy to say the Jaguars. But to adequately attack the Lions' defensive deficiencies, the Jaguars will need to establish balance on offense, something they've struggled to do this season. If, and this is a big if, Jay Gruden can clean up his act in the red zone from a play-calling perspective and consistently feed James Robinson throughout the game, there's no reason the Jaguars should not approach 30 points on offense, at the very least. Minshew will need to play reasonably clean football, which he generally has been able to do. The Jags' young quarterback has turned the ball over six times in five games, far from an egregious number. He'll need to avoid giving the Lions the ball more than once for Jacksonville's offense to stay on track.
The Lions do have playmakers at every level of their defense. Trey Flowers is a solid defensive end, while Jaime Collins and Jarrad Davis have shown the ability to play at a high level at linebacker. On the back end Desmond Trufant, who didn't practice Wednesday (hamstring), is still a sticky cover man and Jeff Okudah, who has struggled during his rookie year, is as talented as any young cornerback in football.
One key here will be DJ Chark's availability. He's been battling through injuries in 2020 and now has a sprained ankle. Chark is considered day to day, so the Jaguars will need to be prepared for that possibility this week. The last time Chark didn't suit up, in week three against the Dolphins, the offense fell apart as Chris Conley became the featured receiver and could not effectively fill the role.
The Jaguars' offense should have the advantage here, but if Jay Gruden continues to call an unbalanced game and can't find more effective looks in the red zone, it could be another long day for the Big Cats. As long as Gruden learns from his mistakes over the last three weeks, and Gardner Minshew doesn't completely implode, the Jaguars' offense should handle the Lions' defense. One key here is that the Lions will likely run plenty of zone coverages in an attempt to make Minshew uncomfortable. The Jags' offense should be prepared for that, though.
Ultimately, the Lions have had only one semi-strong defensive performance this year, and it came in a game where they picked off three passes. That shouldn't be a repeatable recipe this Sunday in Jacksonville.
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