Wednesday, December 14, 2011

THURSDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

JACKSONVILLE @ ATLANTA
The last time these two teams met they were going in completely different directions.  The Jaguars won the game 13-7, making them 1-1 on the season, a season they’d finish 11-5.  The Falcons were being quarterbacked by Joey Harrington, and finished 4-12.  The Jaguars are coming off their first win in the Mel Tucker interim regime, one in which their defense got the assist to the offense putting up 12 points of their own.  However, the equation for the Jags is simple: keep the game close, make few mistakes, and eke out a football game.  Sans last Sunday’s blowout win over the Buccaneers, the Jaguars have won their other three games by a combined 21 points.  Maurice Jones-Drew comes off his best game of the year fantasy wise, and one of the best of the season, lifting this 32nd ranked offense on his shoulders.  Jones-Drew has put up only three 100-yard rushing performances this season, yet has only had one game where he has carried less than 18 times, making him among the most consistent backs this season.  Against the Falcons fifth-ranked rushing defense, Blaine Gabbert is going to have to face down the Falcons pass rush led by veteran John Abraham and Sean Weatherspoon (each with four sacks) and pick apart the Falcons 21st ranked secondary.  Problem is Gabbert has few weapons to choose from, and the one guy it seems the Jaguars want to give more time to, rookie Cecil Shorts, is fighting a hamstring injury of his own.  Meanwhile, the Falcons offense clicked again versus the Panthers, and Matt Ryan tossed four scores.  Their job is to get ahead in this game by 10-13 points and let Michael Turner do the rest.  Turner, who carried 21 times on Sunday appears to be healthy again, though he’s listed as questionable for tomorrow.  On just four days rest, you might want to taper your expectations of a 20 carry day, and expect a sprinkling of Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.  I expect some sloppy play on a Thursday night game, but that Ryan will get Roddy White involved early, and try to get the lead.  Tony Gonzalez should garner some looks and decent yardage, but I don't expect the end zone here.  I like the physical White to have a decent game, 75 yards and a score, and Ryan to give you a 200 yards a couple of touchdowns and a turnover or two.  I’m not as high on Julio Jones in this matchup.  Turner should get around 17-18 carries, and Rodgers will take it from there.  The Jags Jones-Drew has only faced Atlanta once in 2007.  The Falcons aren't as strong a defense at home as on the road, but even if they were a stone wall against runners, Jones-Drew is NFL rushing leader and this is no time to get cute.  He’s the only Jaguar you play.

ATLANTA 24, JACKSONVILLE 17