Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals: 2020 Week 4 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1)

The Bengals haven’t done a lot of winning in the past couple years, finishing with the worst record in the league at 2-14 in 2019 and getting off to an 0-2-1 start in 2020, but they’ve generally been pretty competitive. Of their 14 losses last season, 8 of those came by 8 points or fewer, while their two losses this season have come by a combined 8 points. They finished last season 24th in first down rate differential at -3.47%, not great, but better than their league worst record suggested, and this year they should be better with the addition of quarterback Joe Burrow and the return of top receiver AJ Green and left tackle Jonah Williams from injuries that cost them all of 2019. So far, the Bengals have been decent in first down rate differential, despite their lack of a win, ranking 18th in the NFL in this early season with a -0.70% first down rate differential. 

The Jaguars have exceeded expectations after being expected to be one of the worst teams in the league, but they still only rank 23rd in first down rate differential at -2.47% and their 30th ranked defense is the kind of unit that could land this team among the worst in the league overall when all is said and done if their offense can’t continue playing at a high level (9th in first down rate). I don’t have the Jaguars as the worst team in the league and quarterback Gardiner Minshew can lead them to a few wins this season that they shouldn’t have otherwise had, like Ryan Fitzpatrick did for the expected league worst Dolphins in 2019, but the Jaguars rank just 29th in my roster rankings, so the 21st ranked Bengals have a significant edge in that as well. Despite that, this line suggests these two teams are about even, favoring the Bengals by just 2.5 points at home.

My calculated line is Cincinnati -5.5, even with minimal homefield advantage this year, so we’re getting good line value with the Bengals in a game where they have to win by only a field goal at home to cover. Unfortunately, the Bengals are in a couple of bad spots. Not only are they likely to be tired after last week’s tie, a spot in which teams are 9-17 ATS over the past 30 seasons, but they also have a big look ahead game on deck, going to Baltimore to face the Ravens, a game in which they are 16.5 point underdogs on the early line. Teams are 40-74 ATS since 2016 before being underdogs of 10 points or more, as that tends to serve as a big upcoming distraction. I’m still taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on them.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -2.5

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2020 Week 3 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)

The rule of thumb on Thursday nights has always been to take a non-divisional home favorite, as teams cover at about a 70% rate in that spot historically. It makes sense. Road teams are at a bigger disadvantage on a short week because they have to travel and, while some of that can be mitigated if the road team is a better team and/or if the road team is more familiar with the home team because they are a divisional opponent, non-divisional home favorites are especially at an advantage. 

I’m a little bit more skeptical about that this week because the Jaguars won’t have a full crowd and because the Dolphins won’t have to travel that far for this in-state game, but the Jaguars should still be at an advantage because they’ll have some crowd noise and get to sleep in their own beds on a short week. Also, it may be early, but home teams have not been disadvantaged as much by their lack of fans so far as you’d think, as they’ve outscored opponents by 2.7 points per game (more or less in line with recent history) and have covered in 18 of 32 games. There is sleep science that suggests athletes perform at a higher level when they are able to get a good night’s sleep in a familiar bed and it’s possible that’s a bigger factor in homefield advantage than previously realized.

We’re also getting some line value with the Jaguars as 3-point home favorites, as I have them 2.5 points higher than the Dolphins in my rankings. Even if we don’t use the traditional 3 points for homefield advantage, the Jaguars still should be favored by at least 4-4.5 points here at home over the Dolphins. The Dolphins were expected to be better this season, particularly on defense, but so far their defense has the highest first down rate allowed in the league through 2 games at 48.36% and will be without their biggest off-season addition, cornerback Byron Jones, in this one. 

The Jaguars, meanwhile, have been better than expected on offense, in large part due to their offensive line and running game, which will both take a hit this week without center Brandon Linder, but they should still be able to move the ball relatively easily against this Dolphins defense. The Jaguars 44.63% first down rate on offense is almost definitely unsustainable long-term even with Linder and the Jaguars’ defense is also a problem as they are minimally talented on that side of the ball and have allowed a 43.75% first down rate on the season, but they should still have the advantage in this matchup. DJ Chark is a question mark for the Jaguars, but if he plays I will probably be betting on Jacksonville. They are the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless.

Update: Chark is out, so I’m keeping this where it is.

Jacksonville Jaguars 30 Miami Dolphins 24

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -3

Confidence: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: 2020 Week 2 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) at Tennessee Titans (1-0)

The Jaguars pulled the biggest upset of week one, winning at home as 8-point underdogs against the Colts. That is likely to prove to be a fluke though, as the Jaguars still have one of the worst rosters in the league and are not going to be able to rely on winning the turnover battle by 2 every week. If Gardner Minshew can take a step forward in his second season in the league, he can lead this team to a few wins like Ryan Fitzpatrick did with the Dolphins last year when they had a similarly untalented roster, but the Dolphins were also blown out a lot last year.

This seems like one of those instances where the Jaguars are likely to be blown out, as the Titans are at home and became a legitimate top-10 team when they signed Jadeveon Clowney, who should play even more in his second game with the Titans. In his debut, the Titans only won by 2 in Denver, but they lost 10 points on makeable kicks, something that is highly unlikely to continue happening every week. 

The Jaguars likely fluke win shifted this line all the week from Tennessee -11 on the early line last week to -7.5 this week and, while some of that is justified due to the Titans missing starting cornerback Malcolm Butler and top receiver AJ Brown (in addition to fellow cornerback Adoree Jackson continuing to be out), I still have this line calculated at Tennessee -10.5 (it wouldn’t have been about -13 with Butler and Brown in the lineup). There’s enough line value with the Titans for them to be worth a small bet this week.

Update: Some 7s have shown up Sunday morning. This bet is worth increasing if you can get that number.

Tennessee Titans 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -7

Confidence: High

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2020 Week 1 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)

This is the biggest line of the opening week, with the Colts favored by 8 points on the road in Jacksonville, but I don’t think this line is high enough. Not only will the Jaguars barely have any homefield advantage with limited fans, but there’s a massive talent gap between these two teams. The Colts were just a middling team last season, finishing 16th in the NFL in first down rate differential at 0.79%, but they get a significant upgrade at quarterback going from Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers, they get TY Hilton back healthy after an injury riddled 2019 season, and they added a massive upgrade on defense in DeForest Buckner, who they acquired via trade from the 49ers.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, finished last season dead last in first down rate differential at -6.64%, got substantially worse after trading away Jalen Ramsey, with a -9.00% first down rate differential from week 7 on, and they shed even more talent this off-season, including key players like Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. On paper, they are the worst team in the league, while the Colts rank in the top-5 in my roster rankings. Given that and the lack of homefield advantage, this line should be closer to Indianapolis -12, so they’re worth a bet at -8.

Indianapolis Colts 30 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -8

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 NFL Season Preview


It’s hard to believe, but the Jaguars were in the AFC Championship during the 2017 season, a season in which they finished 2nd in first down rate differential at +5.95%. Just two seasons later in 2019, the Jaguars fell to 6-10 and were even worse than that suggests, finishing dead last in first down rate differential at -6.64%. How did it fall apart so quickly? Well, that 2017 team was built around a defense that ranked 1st in first down rate allowed and that defense got too expensive to keep together, while their offense was only able to have a middling season in 2017 (14th in first down rate) because they got a surprisingly competent season out of quarterback Blake Bortles against a very easy schedule.

In 2018, with a much tougher schedule, Bortles struggled and eventually lost his job at the end of the season, leading to the Jaguars starting Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew at quarterback in 2019. With the Foles/Minshew duo under center, the Jaguars ranked 29th in first down rate, while their hollowed out defense ranked 28th in first down rate allowed. The Jaguars’ defense, which I’ll get into later, lost even more this off-season, leaving them with just 3 of their top-14 in terms of snaps played from their 2017 defense, but this offense looks equally concerning. 

The Jaguars traded Foles to the Bears this off-season, getting out of his 15.6 million dollar salary, as the Jaguars go into full cost cutting rebuild mode. On both sides of the ball, this season looks like it will be more about getting a high draft pick, letting young players play, and rebuilding cap space for the future after years of cap hell, which they’ve already done in a big way, with the third most projected available cap space in the league for 2021.

With Foles gone and only career backup Mike Glennon behind Minshew on the depth chart, this is officially Minshew’s job going into his second season in the league. Minshew might never develop into a long-term starter, but in many ways he’s a perfect quarterback for this team right now, because he’s inexpensive, he has upside, and if he struggles it will only help this team’s draft position. 

After falling to the sixth round, Minshew had his moments as a rookie and finished with 60.6% completion, 6.96 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, but he got worse as the season went on, ranking 26th out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus from week 6 on, and he may still project best as a backup long-term, as the history of late round picks becoming long-term starters is very limited. Minshew will get an extended tryout for a team that figures to not win many games either way and he comes with some upside, but I wouldn’t expect much from him or this offense in 2020.

Grade: C

Receiving Corps

Minshew didn’t really have much help around him last season, but he did show a good rapport with second year wide receiver DJ Chark. Chark finished the season with a 73/1008/8 slash line on 118 targets, while averaging 1.69 yards per route run and earning Pro Football Focus’ 27th highest wide receiver grade. Chark is a total one-year wonder who barely made an impact on 291 snaps as a rookie in 2018, but he came into the league with a high ceiling and, while there’s some chance of regression from him this season, there’s also a chance he keeps getting better, only in his age 24 season.

The rest of this receiving corps was pretty underwhelming though, as Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook both earned middling grades as the other two wide receivers in 3 wide receiver sets, averaging 1.33 yards per route run and 1.20 yards per route run respectively, while their tight end production was among the worst in the league, with just 53 tight end completions. In order to try to improve this group, the Jaguars used a 2nd round pick on Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault and signed veteran tight end Tyler Eifert to a 2-year, 9.5 million dollar deal in free agency, who could both play significant roles.

At wide receiver, Shenault is expected to compete for playing time with Conley and Westbrook right away. A 4th round pick in 2017, Westbrook has been a solid, but unspectacular player across 38 career games, averaging a 67/723/4 slash line per 16 games, and earning average or better grades from PFF in all 3 seasons, while Conley’s underwhelming 2019 season was actually his career best, as the 2015 3rd round pick has earned middling at best grades across 5 seasons with the Chiefs and Jaguars. Conley is the more likely one to lose playing time to Shenault, especially since Westbrook is the Jaguars best option to play the slot. The Jaguars also have Keelan Cole, who has some starting experience, as a valuable reserve and he could see some situational snaps as well.

At tight end, the Jaguars are hoping Eifert can form a solid duo with 2019 3rd round pick Josh Oliver. Oliver’s rookie year was ruined by injuries, as he was limited to just 117 mediocre snaps in 4 games, but the Jaguars are still high on his future and he could easily take a big step forward in his second season if he’s healthy. Health has been a problem for Eifert throughout his career, as he’s missed 53 of 112 games in 7 seasons in the league. The former first round pick showed high end ability when healthy, posting a 52/615/13 slash line in 13 games in 2015 and finishing as PFF’s 5th ranked tight end, but then he was limited to just 14 games over the next three seasons combined. 

Eifert then played all 16 games for the first time in his career last season, but all of the injuries seemed to have taken their toll, as Eifert earned a middling grade from PFF and had just a 43/436/3 slash line. Now going into his age 30 season, it’s likely his best days are behind him and he’s hardly a guarantee to make it through all 16 games again. If both are healthy, Eifert and Josh Oliver are, by default, an upgrade over what the Jaguars had at tight end last season, but they come with a lot of uncertainty, so the Jaguars will need someone to step up at wide receiver if they’re going to have a consistent 2nd option behind DJ Chark.

Grade: B-

Running Backs

Without much passing game production from the tight ends last season, running back Leonard Fournette finished 4th on the team in receiving yards with a 76/522/0, but that was more the product of opportunity than anything, as Fournette managed just 5.22 yards per target on 100 targets. Fournette’s passing game struggles are nothing new, as he’s averaged just 5.80 yards per target in 3 seasons in the league, which is why he was barely used in the passing game in his first two seasons in the league, but last season he was used frequently for lack of a better option.

The Jaguars don’t seem to want to do that again, bringing in ex-Redskins pass catching specialist Chris Thompson, who has averaged a 55/465/2 slash line per 16 games over the past 5 seasons. Thompson is highly unreliable when it comes to staying on the field though, missing 20 games over the past 5 seasons combined, including at least 5 games in 3 straight seasons, and he’s unlikely to suddenly become more durable now in his age 30 season, so it’s very likely Fournette will have to be an every down back again at some point in 2020.

Fournette has been better as a runner in his career than he’s been as a receiver, but he’s hardly been what the Jaguars were hoping for when they used the 4th overall pick on him in 2017, rushing for 2,631 yards and 17 touchdowns on 666 carries (3.95 YPC) and posting middling rushing grades on Pro Football Focus in all 3 seasons in the league. This off-season Jaguars declined Fournette’s 5th year option for 2021, which would have guaranteed him 8.483 million for injury, and unsuccessfully tried to trade him on draft day, so his time with the team seems to be coming to a close, but in the meantime he should continue being the clear lead back on a team without another good rushing option.

Chris Thompson could see some action as a change of pace back and the speedster has an impressive 4.78 YPC average in 7 seasons in the league, but the diminutive 5-8 195 pounder has never topped 68 carries in a season and lacks the size and durability to carry a load. Given that, 2019 5th round pick Ryquell Armstead could be the Jaguars’ #2 back this season in terms of carries, but he showed very little as a rookie (3.09 YPC on 35 carries) to suggest he deserves a larger role, even with Fournette being an underwhelming starter. The addition of Chris Thompson helps this backfield, but this is still a questionable group, especially given Thompson’s inability to stay healthy in his career.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line

The Jaguars also had underwhelming play on their offensive line last season, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ 25th ranked run blocking team and their 24th ranked pass blocking team. The Jaguars didn’t really do much to upgrade this group this off-season though, so it should look largely the same in 2020. The one position which could potentially be different is right guard, where the Jaguars actually rotated a couple players last season, AJ Cann and Will Richardson.

Both players struggled mightily last season, especially Richardson who also saw some action at tackle and is expected to move to tackle full-time in 2020. Richardson, a 4th round pick in 2018, could still get better after face planting in his first career action last season, but Cann, while he’s more proven with 75 career starts, has never received more than a middling grade from PFF and is unlikely to get better, now in his 6th season in the league. With Richardson moving to tackle, he will be replaced at guard by 4th round rookie Ben Bratch, who will compete with and may rotate with AJ Cann at right guard, despite being raw. Regardless of who plays at right guard, it figures to be a position of weakness.

Richardson is likely to be a reserve at tackle, even though left tackle was a position of weakness with left tackle Cam Robinson finishing 75th out of 89 qualifying tackles on PFF. Robinson came into the league with high expectations with the 34th overall pick and he took over as the starting left tackle as a rookie, but hasn’t lived up to those expectations, struggling as a rookie in addition, finishing 81st out of 92nd qualifying tackles on PFF, and missing almost all of 2018 with a torn ACL before last year’s poor performance. 

Robinson still has upside, only in his age 25 season, another year removed from his ACL tear, but it’s possible he never develops into an even an average starter. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor is also a former 2nd round pick, going 35th overall in 2019, and his development has gone better, as he was about an average starter in 16 rookie year starts at right tackle and could take a step forward in his second season in the league. It’s possible the Jaguars could flip their offensive tackles at some point if Robinson continues to struggle, but it’s unclear if Taylor would be as good at left tackle and Robinson wouldn’t necessarily be better at right tackle.

Center Brandon Linder was the best player on this unit last season, finishing as PFF’s 5th ranked center while playing all but 7 snaps on the season. Playing at a high level is nothing new for him, as he’s finished in the top-7 among centers on PFF in 4 straight seasons (52 starts) since moving there from right guard, where he also had some success. Still in his prime in his age 28 season, Linder should continue being one of the better centers in the league in 2020 and is probably the Jaguars’ best offensive player.

Left guard Andrew Norwell also has a history of success, finishing in the top-25 among guards on PFF in all 6 seasons in the league, including a pair of top-10 finishes in 2015 and 2017. Norwell hasn’t been quite as good since joining the Jaguars from the Panthers two off-seasons ago on a 5-year, 66.5 million dollar deal, but he’s still in the prime of his career in his age 29 season and he should continue being at least an above average starter going forward. Linder and Norwell elevate this offensive line, but this should remain an underwhelming group in 2020, having made few changes this off-season.

Grade: B-

Edge Defenders

As I mentioned, the Jaguars struggled mightily on defense last season, finishing 28th in first down rate allowed at 38.50%, a drastic change from their #1 ranked defense of 2017. Even in 2018 in a disappointing season the Jaguars still finished 5th in first down rate allowed. In 2019, they actually got off to a pretty decent start, ranking 13th in first down rate allowed at 35.71% through the first 6 games of the season, but the wheels fell off when the Jaguars traded cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Rams ahead of week 7, as the Jaguars had the NFL’s 3rd worst first down rate allowed at 40.19% from that point on. 

This off-season, the Jaguars continued to shed talent as part of their rebuilding strategy. AJ Bouye, traded to the Broncos for a 4th round pick ahead of a 13.5 million non-guaranteed owed, and Marcell Dareus, released ahead of 20 million non-guaranteed owed, aren’t huge losses as both were middling players last season, but the Jaguars also sent Calais Campbell to the Ravens, even though he was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked interior defender last season, and got just a 5th round pick for him, moving him purely to avoid paying him 15 million for his age 34 season. He’s obviously a significant loss for this defense. All in all, the Jaguars are left with just 3 defenders from their top-14 in terms of snaps played from that dominant 2017 unit and they could easily be one of the worst defenses in the league in 2020.

One of those three who remains is edge defender Yannick Ngakoue, although it remains to be seen how long that will be in the case for, as Ngakoue has yet to sign his franchise tag tender and has demanded to be traded, with the Jaguars seemingly unwilling to pay him what he wants long-term. Ngakoue apparently wants to be paid in the Khalil Mack/Aaron Donald range (22+ million annually) as one of the highest paid defensive players in the league, so it’s understandable the Jaguars wouldn’t want to pay him at that level, as he struggles against the run and has only once finished higher than 33rd among edge defenders on PFF in 4 seasons in the league, but he’s only going into his age 25 season and he has 37.5 sacks, 56 hits, and a 12.0% pressure rate for his career, so Ngakoue would likely get that kind of money from someone if he were available on the open market, given how young pass rushers are valued in this league.

Finding a team willing to give Ngakoue that kind of deal and give up a premium pick for him is the tricky part and the Jaguars unsurprisingly had no takers at their first round asking price on draft day and have yet to move him. It’s possible they still will move him for a future draft pick before the season starts, rather than losing him for nothing next off-season, especially since the Jaguars don’t seem to be trying to be competitive in 2020 anyway, but if the Jaguars don’t move him Ngakoue’s only option would be to holdout, which is possible, but his 17,788 million dollar guaranteed salary on the franchise tag may ultimately be tough to turn down. Even if he isn’t Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald, he would still have a big impact on this pass rush if he remains on the roster in 2020.

Possibly seeing the writing on the wall with Ngakoue long-term, the Jaguars used the 20th overall pick, one of the two first rounders they received for Jalen Ramsey, on LSU edge defender K’Lavon Chaisson, their second straight season using a first round pick on an edge defender, with Kentucky’s Josh Allen going 7th overall in 2019. Allen didn’t reach the same heights as fellow rookie edge defender Nick Bosa, with whom Allen was frequently compared before the draft, but Allen had a solid rookie year in his own right, earning a slightly above average grade from PFF, particularly playing well as a pass rusher, with 10.5 sacks, 15 hits, and a 12.6% pressure rate. 

Only going into his age 23 season, Allen has a sky high ceiling and could easily take a step forward in 2020 on his way to becoming one of the better edge defenders in the league a few years down the line. Chaisson isn’t as clean of a prospect as Allen was and will likely have growing pains as a rookie, but he too has a high ceiling, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Chaisson and Allen developed into one of the best edge defender duos in the league at some point in the future.

If Ngakoue is traded or holds out, the Jaguars would likely turn to veteran Cassius Marsh, who they signed in free agency this off-season, or 4th year player Dawuane Smoot, who is going into his 4th year with the Jaguars since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2017. Despite being a relatively high pick, Smoot has shown very little in 3 years in the league, playing just 818 snaps and struggling both against the run and as a pass rusher (7.6% pressure rate). Going into the final year of his rookie deal, he’s entering a make or break year and is not a guarantee to lock down a role. Marsh, meanwhile, has been mediocre on an average of 455 snaps per season over the past 4 seasons as a reserve with the Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots, and most recently the Cardinals. Both are underwhelming options, but if the Jaguars can get Ngakoue on the field, this is a trio with a lot of upside, at least as pass rushers.

Grade: B+

Interior Defenders

With Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus both gone from this interior of this defensive line, the Jaguars will move forward with holdovers Taven Bryan (481 snaps) and Abry Jones (558 snaps), veteran free agent acquisition Rodney Gutner, and third round rookie Davon Hamilton. Bryan has the highest upside of the bunch, as he was the Jaguars’ first round pick back in 2018, making it three years in a row in which the Jaguars have taken a defensive lineman in the first round. Bryan hasn’t lived up to his draft status yet, playing just 782 snaps in 2 seasons in the league, but he’s flashed as both a run stuffer and a pass rusher and has obvious breakout potential in his third year in the league, now likely to get a shot at an every down role.

Jones is the also tenured member of the group, spending his whole 7-year NFL career with the Jaguars, including a 488 snap season on the Jaguars dominant 2017 team, making him one of those three significant players still remaining from that defense. Jones has never been more than a rotational player, as the 558 snaps he played last season were a career high, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he surpassed that total in 2020 as the nominal starter in an underwhelming group. Jones is still only in his age 29 season and he’s consistently proven to be an above average run stuffer, but his 9.5 sacks, 6 hits, and 5.1% pressure rate in 100 career games leave something to be desired in passing situations.

With Davon Hamilton entering the league as a pretty raw prospect, the veteran Rodney Gutner figures to be Jones’ biggest competition for the nominal starting job opposite Bryan. Gutner has played 641 snaps and 602 snaps over the past 2 seasons with the Cardinals, but he’s largely been a snap eater more than anything and that has been the case throughout his career, even when he played a small role back in 2015-2017. He’s not a bad player in any aspect of the game and could be valuable for a team without much depth at the position, but I wouldn’t expect big things from him. Barring a huge breakout year from Bryan, this should be an underwhelming group overall.

Grade: B-


Even with the Jaguars rebuilding, they did make one big outside financial investment this off-season, signing ex-Browns linebacker Joe Schobert to a 5-year, 53.75 million dollar deal. Schobert will team up with Myles Jack, the third remaining significant player from their 2017 defense and a player who is also well paid on a 4-year, 57 million dollar deal. In 2017, the Jaguars had Jack and the since retired Telvin Smith as their top-2 linebackers, who both played in nickel packages, and they were a big part of the Jaguars’ defensive success that season. The contract the Jaguars gave Schobert suggests they have sign expectations for him as Smith’s long-term replacement.

If Schobert plays like he did in 2018, when he finished 10th among off ball linebackers on Pro Football Focus, he’ll be worth his contract, but that’s not a guarantee, as the 2016 4th round pick has never finished higher than 30th at his position on PFF in any of his other 3 seasons in the league, including a 57th ranked finish in 2019. He’s a good coverage linebacker and was especially dominant in coverage in 2018, allowing a ridiculous 0.42 yards per route run, lowest at his position, but he tends to struggle against the run, especially last season, and his 57 missed tackles over the past 3 seasons definitely stand out as a problem. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was consistently a solid every down player, but it’s likely his 2018 season will end up being his career best when all is said and done.

Jack is also coming off of a disappointing year, finishing 87th out of 100 qualifying off ball linebackers on PFF, but injuries were largely to blame in a season in which he was limited to 613 snaps in 11 games and, prior to last season, Jack had finished above average on PFF in back-to-back season as a starter. Still only his age 25 season, the 2016 2nd round pick has obvious bounce back potential and could benefit from Schobert coming in to take over in the middle, allowing Jack to play in probably a more natural spot outside.

In 2017, the Jaguars also had a talented third linebacker, as veteran Paul Posluzsny was a dominant run stuffer in base packages, but he also has since retired and the Jaguars don’t have anyone like that anymore. The Jaguars used a 3rd round pick on Quincy Williams in 2019, but he was widely regarded as a reach and didn’t prove anyone wrong in a horrendous rookie season in which he finished as PFF’s 98th ranked off ball linebacker out of 100 qualifiers. It wouldn’t be hard for him to be better in 2020, but it’s tough to trust him in any role. 

Leon Jacobs, a 2018 7th round pick, has flashed in limited action thus far in his career, particularly against the run, but he’s played just 471 snaps, so he’s hardly a reliable option either. It’s also possible 4th round rookie Shaquille Quarterman could get into the mix as the third linebacker at some point this season. Schobert and Jack aren’t a bad duo, but depth is a question mark.

Grade: B-


The Jaguars’ secondary is the unit that has changed the most since 2017, as they now have a completely new unit. At safety, the starting duo of Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church, who were solid in 2017, were both let go after 2018 for salary reasons and the Jaguars then turned to inexpensive young prospects Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson to be their starting safeties in 2019 in place of Church and Gipson. Now going into 2020, Harrison and Wilson will remain the starters.

Harrison struggled in his first year as a starter, finishing 76th out of 100 qualifying safeties on Pro Football Focus, after playing 328 underwhelming snaps as a rookie in 2018. A former 3rd round pick, Harrison still has starters’ tools and could take a step forward in his third season in the league, but that’s not a guarantee. Wilson, meanwhile, is a 2016 undrafted free agent who flashed in 305 snaps in his first 3 seasons in the league before breaking out as PFF’s 29th ranked safety in 2019. He’s a one-year wonder who might not be quite as good in 2020, but he still profiles as at least a capable starter going forward.

Cornerback was arguably the Jaguars’ best position on that dominant 2017 defense, led by Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye, who finished 2nd and 7th respectively among cornerbacks on PFF. Both are no longer with the team, being traded in the past calendar year, while slot cornerback Aaron Colvin, who also had a solid year in 2017, is long gone, having left the following off-season. 

The Jaguars did a pretty good job of replacing Colvin, signing DJ Hayden in free agency and watching him prove to be a late bloomer, as the former first round pick has earned back-to-back above average grades as the third cornerback and primary slot cover cornerback (0.77 yards per route run allowed on the slot), after struggling in the first 5 seasons of his career. With Ramsey and Bouye both gone, however, Hayden will likely have to play a larger role and could be overstretched as an every down player, especially now on the wrong side of 30.

To replace Ramsey and Bouye as the primary outside cornerbacks, the Jaguars did use a first round pick, taking Florida’s CJ Henderson 9th overall, but he’ll likely have growing pains as a rookie and their other outside cornerback options are veteran free agent addition Rashaan Melvin and holdover Tre Herndon, who would both be underwhelming options. Undrafted in 2018, Herndon struggled mightily in the first significant action of his career in 2019, finishing 107th among 135 qualifying cornerbacks on PFF across 902 snaps. 

Melvin, meanwhile, is going into his 8th season in the league, but he has been underwhelming at best in his career, aside from an impressive half season as a starter with the Colts in 2017, and he’s going into his age 31 season coming off of a 2019 season in which he finished 104th out of 135 qualifying cornerbacks with the Lions. Unless CJ Henderson has a huge rookie year, this looks like a very underwhelming secondary.

Grade: C+


The Jaguars have the least expensive roster in the NFL by average annual salary and it shows. Their dominant 2017 defense is a thing of the past and should be even worse this season without Calais Campbell and others, as well as possibly Yannick Ngakoue, who wants a trade, while their offense looks to be one of the worst in the league, barring a surprising breakout year from quarterback Gardner Minshew, who has the history of late round quarterbacks in the NFL working against him. Ultimately, this team seems to be building for the future more than trying to compete in the short-term, stockpiling young talent, draft picks, and cap space for the future. The Jaguars might not be the worst team in the league this season but they’ll likely be in the mix for the #1 pick along with teams like the Redskins and Panthers. I will have an official prediction closer to the start of the season.

Final Update: The Jaguars shed even more talent, trading away Yannick Ngakoue and Ronnie Harrison and releasing Leonard Fournette when they couldn’t find a trade partner. They’ll be lucky (or unlucky depending on the goal of their season) to win more than a couple games.

Projection: 2-14 (4th in AFC South)

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2019 Week 17 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (7-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10)

The Jaguars don’t have the worst record in the NFL, but they’re arguably the worst team in the league. They rank dead last in the NFL in first down rate differential at -7.39% and have been even worse since trading away cornerback Jalen Ramsey, with a -10.47% first down rate differential since sending him to the Rams in week 7. The Jaguars’ defense ranked a respectable 13th in first down rate allowed at 35.71% through the first 6 games of the season, but have allowed a 40.74% first down rate over the past 9 games, 3rd worst in the NFL over that stretch. Their offense, meanwhile, has struggled throughout the season, ranking 31st in the NFL with a 31.34% first down rate. They’re an awful team on both sides of the ball and have been for weeks. This week, they could be even worse, with injured cornerback AJ Bouye and running back Leonard Fournette resting in a meaningless game and news breaking that head coach Doug Marrone will likely be fired after the game. They might not give any effort this week.

Meanwhile, the Colts are out of the post-season race at 7-8, but they’re a solid team, ranking 15th in the NFL at +1.16%. They have a positive point differential at +6, despite getting awful play (68.0% field goal, 78.6% extra point) from kicker Adam Vinatieri, costing them at least two games. Vinatieri is on injured reserve now and replacement kicker Chase McLaughlin has missed just one kick in 3 games. If the Colts had him all season they could easily be in a strong position for a playoff spot. The Colts are favored by 4 points on the road, but I think this line is still too low, as my calculated line is Indianapolis -7. If the Colts hadn’t lost to the Chargers and Steelers because of makeable kicks, I have a feeling this line would be much closer to a touchdown. This isn’t a big bet, but there’s enough line value here for the Colts to be worth a wager. 

Indianapolis Colts 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -4

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9) at Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

The Jaguars won last week in Oakland, snapping a 5-game losing streak, but they weren’t impressive. Not only did they lose the first down rate battle by 3.04% in a game that could have gone either way, but the Raiders are also one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 29th in the NFL on the season in first down rate differential. That win doesn’t change my opinion of the Jaguars and, prior to last week’s win, the Jaguars were the 3rd team in the past 30 seasons to lose 5 consecutive games by 14 points or more, so they still have a lot of problems. 

Their offense has been terrible all season, ranking 30th in first down rate on the season at 31.40%, and their defense has been especially bad since trading Jalen Ramsey after week 6, ranking 30th in the NFL in first down rate allowed over that stretch at 40.49%. As a result of their struggles on both sides of the ball, they have a -10.24% first down rate differential since week 6, worst in the NFL over that stretch by a large margin, with their opponents last week the Oakland Raiders having the second worst at -7.33%. 

The Falcons, meanwhile, have the same record as the Jaguars, but have been better than their record suggests and significantly better than the Jaguars, ranking 17th in first down rate differential at -0.38%, despite facing the league’s toughest schedule (58% opponents winning percentage). The Falcons started the season 1-7 before their week 9 bye, but their biggest problem was the turnover battle, as they had -0.29% first down rate differential but a -12 turnover margin. Fortunately, turnovers tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and they’ve been +6 in turnover margin since the bye. 

As a result, the Falcons have gone 4-2, including wins on the road in New Orleans and San Francisco, despite their first down rate differential only being slightly better in those 6 games than it was before the bye (+0.12%). Assuming they play turnover neutral football, which should almost always be assumed about most teams, the Falcons shouldn’t have much trouble at home against one of the worst teams in the league. 

This line, favoring the Falcons by 7.5, suggests a large talent gap between these two teams, but I think this line should be even higher, with my calculated line being Atlanta -11. We’ve lost line value with the Falcons going from 6.5-point favorites on the early line last week to 7.5-point favorites this week, but I still like the Falcons enough to bet on them. If this line drops back down to a touchdown before gametime, I’ll probably increase this bet.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -7.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders: 2019 Week 15 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) at Oakland Raiders (6-7)

The Jaguars won some games against bad teams early in the season, but they’ve been awful in recent weeks, losing their last 5 games by at least 17 points. They’ve fallen to dead last in first down rate differential at -7.26% and don’t do much of anything well on either side of the ball. Their offense ranks 30th in first down rate at 31.12%, as Minshew Mania has fallen back to earth and the rest of this offense is not nearly good enough to compensate, especially without top wide receiver DJ Chark. Meanwhile on defense, the Jaguars have just 3 players left from their top-11 in terms of snaps played from their dominant 2017 defense and rank 28th in first down rate allowed at 38.38%.

The Jaguars do have a pretty easy matchup this week though. The Raiders have played much worse than their 6-7 record suggests and since week 7 the only team worse than them in first down rate differential has been the Jaguars. While all 6 of the Raiders’ wins have come by 8 points or fewer, all but one of their losses have come by at least 18 points, with the one exception being a 3-point loss in Houston in which they lost the first down rate battle by 9.28%, but managed to score from 46 and 65 yards out to keep the game close. 

Given that, I don’t think the Raiders deserve to be favored by more than 6.5 points against anyone, so we are getting some line value with the Jaguars. I wouldn’t recommend betting on that for two reasons though. For one, this is the Raiders’ last home game in Oakland, so we should see their best effort in front of a crazy crowd. Last year, when it looked like it was the Raiders’ last game in Oakland, they had their best performance of the season against the Broncos. The second reason is that the Jaguars may have legitimately quit on head coach Doug Marrone and have shown little effort in games once down by a couple scores. I expect this game to be close, but if it’s not close the Jaguars could end up getting blown out again, even though the Raiders haven’t blown out anyone all season.

Oakland Raiders 30 Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +6.5

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (4-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)

Typically teams have more injured players late in the season than they do early in the season, but for the Chargers it has been the opposite. Tight end Hunter Henry (4 games), left tackle Russell Okung (8 games), defensive Melvin Ingram (3 games), running back Melvin Gordon (4 games), safety Adrian Phillips (9 games), and safety Derwin James (11 games) have all missed significant time this season, but have since returned. Now the Chargers head into week 14 without any regular players on the injury report and only a pair of expected starters on injured reserve, center Maurkice Pouncey and wide receiver Travis Benjamin, neither of whom was playing that well.

The Chargers more or less have the same roster right now as they did last season, when they went 12-4 and won a playoff game. However, while they went 5-1 last season in games decided by a touchdown or less last season, the Chargers are just 2-8 in those games this season, including last week’s embarrassing finish in Denver. Record in close games tends to be very inconsistent, so the Chargers aren’t necessarily more likely to lose close games going forward, just like they weren’t necessarily more likely to win close games this year after last year’s impressive record in close games. On the season, the Chargers rank 9th in first down rate differential at +2.51%, losing close games primarily because of a -10 turnover margin, which is also very inconsistent. The Chargers haven’t faced a tough schedule, but with their roster basically at full strength they rank 12th in my roster rankings and they are definitely better than their record suggests.

The Jaguars have the same record at 4-8, but have played much worse, with a -72 point differential that ranks 25th in the NFL and a -5.35% first down rate differential that ranks 28th in the NFL. They’re changing quarterbacks, benching highly paid veteran Nick Foles for 6th round rookie Gardiner Minshew, who made 8 starts when Foles was injured earlier this season. That move is unlikely to help much, as their problems go far beyond the quarterback position. 

At their peak, the Jaguars had a dominant defense, but with Marcell Dareus and Myles Jack on injured reserve and Jalen Ramsey in Los Angeles, the Jaguars have just 3 players left from their top-11 in terms of snaps played from their dominant 2017 defense. They rank just 22nd in first down rate allowed on the season at 36.93% and have been even worse in recent weeks, ranking 27th in first down rate allowed at 38.19% and 31st in first down rate differential at -7.92% since week 7. Meanwhile on offense, even in Minshew’s 8 starts, the Jaguars had just a 31.70% first down rate, which would be 27th in the NFL on the season, and Minshew saved his worst start for last, leading to a 26-3 loss to the Texans in London. After a hot start, Minshew seemed to fall back to earth in his final few games, so going back to him is unlikely to make much if any positive impact.

The Chargers are on the road this week, but location hasn’t really mattered much for the Chargers since they moved to Los Angeles, where they basically have no fans. Since the start of the 2017 season, they are 7-12-1 ATS at home and 14-8-2 ATS on the road. I typically only use 1 point for homefield advantage in Chargers games instead of the standard 2.5. For this line to be accurate, the Chargers would have to only be 4 points better than the Jaguars, but I have them 8.5 points better and have this line calculated at Chargers -7.5. I don’t love the spot the Chargers are in with a tough home game against the Vikings on deck (road favorites are 45-25 ATS before being home underdogs since 2012), but we’re getting a ton of value with the visitors this week.

Los Angeles Chargers 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -3

Confidence: High

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)

Both of these teams enter this game at 4-7, but the Buccaneers have definitely been the more impressive team this season. Despite playing in a tougher conference and facing a tougher schedule (13th in opponent’s DVOA vs. 22nd), the Buccaneers have a significantly better point differential (-23 vs -55). In first down rate differential, the difference is even more pronounced, as the Jaguars rank 28th in first down rate differential at -5.27%, while the Buccaneers rank 16th at +0.34%. The Buccaneers have been killed by the turnover margin (-10), while the Jaguars are even on the season, but turnover margin is highly unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. The Jaguars, who have trouble winning games even with a neutral turnover margin, would have a very tough time winning this game if they lost the turnover battle. 

The Jaguars have been even worse in recent weeks, with the worst first down rate differential in the league over the past 6 weeks at -8.44%, coinciding with their trade of Jalen Ramsey to the Rams. With Ramsey gone and both Marcell Dareus and Myles Jack currently injured, the Jaguars have just 3 players left from their top-11 in terms of snaps played from their dominant 2017 defense. With so many key defensive players no longer playing for them and a weak offense, I have the Jaguars 28th in my roster rankings, 8 spots behind the Buccaneers.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost a ton of line value with the Buccaneers in the past week. As a result of the Jaguars’ blowout home loss to the Titans last week and the Buccaneers double digit win in Atlanta, this line has shifted a whole 6 points in the past week, going from Jacksonville -3.5 on the early line last week to Tampa Bay -2.5 this week. Normally I like fading significant week-to-week line movements like that, but I actually have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -3, so we’re still getting a little bit of line value with the Buccaneers. It’s not enough to bet on, but the most likely outcome of this game is the Buccaneers winning by a field goal, so I’d take them for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Jacksonville Jaguars 27

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5

Confidence: Low