Arizona Cardinals (0-1) (0-1 ATS) v. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) (1-0 ATS) 1pm ET, Sunday, September 20, Jacksonville Stadium, Jacksonville, FL, FOX
by Evergreen of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Arizona +3/Jacksonville -3
Two teams looking to salvage a decent start to the 2009 NFL season square off Sunday when the Jaguars welcome the Cardinals to Jacksonville for an early afternoon tilt. Both teams will be trying hard to avoid a 0-2 start after losing close games in their respective openers. Each team is also dealing with some high expectations on the year and the loser of this one will be faced with a tough road to make the playoffs.
Vegas opened with the Jaguars as 5 point favorites, but the online betting sites had the Jags at -3 or -4 by mid-week. Arizona is on the moneyline at +150 with Jacksonville in the -170 range and the over/under total for the game is around 43.5.
Arizona began its NFC title defense with home loss to the 49ers and looked disjointed on offense in the 20-16 defeat. The high-powered unit from 2008 managed only 332 total yards on offense, rushed for only 44, and was penalized 12 times. The defense played well enough to keep the Cardinals in the game by allowing only 21 rushing yards and 203 yards total, but the one touchdown the 49ers scored in the second half was good enough for the win.
Jacksonville opened up at Indianapolis and lost a defensive battle by the score of 14-12. The Jags could have pulled even with the Colts, but failed on the two-point conversion and werent able to do much with the ball all day, amassing only 12 first downs. Defensively, the Jags held Indy to only 71 yards rushing and forced two turnovers, but gave up 294 yards to Peyton Manning and got burned deep for the eventual game winning score.
The Cardinals will continue to air it out with Kurt Warner under center but will need to get their running game on track to avoid getting too one-dimensional. Tim Hightower caught 12 balls for 121 yards last week, but he and Chris Wells could only manage 44 yards on 15 carries. Arizona will likely find it tough to run again this week, so Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin should see a lot of targets as usual. Warner went for 288 yards last week with a score, but couldnt get synched with his wideouts, completing just eight passes to Fitzgerald and Boldin and tossing two picks as well.
The Jaguars have put the offense on the smallish shoulders of Maurice Jones-Drew, and the back stepped up with 123 scrimmage yards and a score last week, but no one else could get anything going. David Garrard is a game manger at the QB spot and while he wont turn the ball over, the big yardage days wont be there either. Torry Holt and Troy Williamson are Garrards targets on the outside, but neither posted much of a game last Sunday with Holt leading the way at three catches for 47 yards. Someone needs to step up and balance this offense so defenses cant overload on Jones-Drew.
The Cardinals have Steve Breaston (ques. - knee) and Anquan Boldin (prob. - hamstring) on the injury report. Breaston was inactive for Week 1 and Boldin looked limited while playing, but both are expected to play this week. The Jaguars listed Jones-Drew (prob. arm) but he is expected at full strength and tackle Tra Thomas is questionable with a back injury.
Arizona had their streak of five straight covers broken last week, and are 2-6 ATS in the last eight when they travel as underdogs. Jacksonville struggled with the line in 2008, especially at home, going 1-7 against the spread overall and 0-5 as home favorites.
Evergreens Pick: Jacksonville needs this game more than Arizona does to stay relevant in their respective conferences, so look for the Jags to come out motivated and hog the ball with the run game. The Cards should put some points up through the air, but the run game wont get on track in this one and the time of possession should be a big advantage for the Jags. Jacksonville covers this weekend, 26-20.