Detroit Lions (1-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
The Jaguars were seen as probably the worst team in the league coming into the season, with some expecting them to not even win a game, but they surprised everyone with a week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars have fallen back to earth since then though, losing four straight. Their offense hasn’t been bad overall, ranking 15th in first down rate at 40.31%, but they are probably outplaying their talent level, which means they could regress on that side of the ball, while their defense is predictably a disaster, ranking 31st in first down rate allowed at 44.90%. It’s not hard to see how the Jaguars could be even worse going forward if their offense can’t keep exceeding expectations.
The news isn’t all bad for the Jaguars though. For one, they’ll get their top cornerback CJ Henderson and top linebacker Myles Jack back from a one game absence, which should make their defense a little bit more respectable than the unit that struggled mightily against the Texans last week, and they could get top pass rusher Josh Allen back from a one game absence as well. On top of that, the Jaguars get to face another team that has gotten off to a horrible start to the season, as they will host a Detroit Lions team that ranks just 31st in first down rate differential at -8.84%, only ahead of the winless New York Jets.
The Lions have one win, but it came in a game in which they only won by 3 over the Cardinals, despite winning the turnover battle by 3, and the Lions actually lost the first down rate battle in that game by 10.50%. The Lions’ defense has been particularly bad, as they are the only team in the league with a first down rate allowed worse than the Jaguars, and by a significant margin, at 47.15% (2.25% higher than Jacksonville). I don’t expect the Lions to be quite that bad all season, but it’s clear their defense is an obvious problem, especially with expected top cornerback Desmond Trufant out with injury.
The one thing that is stopping me from betting the Jaguars is that the Lions are coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3+ are 74-39-1 ATS since 1989 with extra rest, including 13-6 ATS for teams with a losing record. My calculated line is even for this game and I don’t know if that trend should apply if the line is off, but the possibility that the Lions could be significantly improved out of their bye is enough for me to stay away from betting on the Jaguars for now. I say for now because that will likely change if the Jaguars’ two key questionable players, Josh Allen and top wide receiver DJ Chark, are able to go and this line stays where it is at 3.5. The Jaguars are the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless.
Detroit Lions 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 33
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3.5