|The Jaguars want to get Maurice Jones-Drew in the endzone as often as possible. Hopefully, we'll be seeing more of this tonight.|
Tonight the Jacksonville Jaguars visit their neighbor, the Atlanta Falcons. While the Jaguars are out of playoff contention, there's still time for them to make an impact on the NFL's playoff landscape. The Falcons are in the middle of a vicious NFC wild-card battle.
Last week, we watched Blaine Gabbert take his biggest step forward as a pro. Yours truly, among many others, criticized Gabbert for not stepping into throws and flinching as a hit became imminent. That was nowhere to be found in the Jaguars, Buccaneers matchup. In fact, I can only remember one play where Gabbert got skittish, and on the play he found Maurice Jones-Drew for a short completion.
For the Jaguars to have a chance of denting the Falcons' post-season aspirations, they'll have to contain the Falcons receivers and Matt Ryan. This is a scary matchup, and it reminds me a lot of the Chargers, Jaguars matchup. This is a game that the defensive line has to get constant pressure, and the safeties will be pressured to be on the spot, on time to make big plays.
Turnovers would help.
Last week, the Jaguars claimed an astounding 7 takeaways in their win over the Bucs. The Bucs, unlike the Falcons, are in a free fall. The Jaguars will need takeaways to win tonight, and they'll have to cash in on those takeaways in a similar way as they did last week.
Finally, the Jaguars will be leaning on Maurice Jones-Drew to do the heavy lifting. All of us would love to see Blaine Gabbert throw for about 300 yards in a game, but I'd much rather see Jones-Drew rip off 200 yards on the ground with a few touchdowns. The offense has been all about Jones-Drew this season, and I don't see a reason why that should change now. Gabbert is taking steps to get better; the Jaguars shouldn't try to put everything on him too soon.
The game is a tough one for the Jaguars, but it's also a game in which they can make a statement about this season and next season. The Jaguars are in transition; the question is whether that's a positive transition. Tonight, they can make a statement for positive change by going toe-to-toe with the Falcons.