Denver Broncos (0-0,0-0 ATS) vs.Jacksonville Jaguars(0-0,0-0 ATS),EverBank Field(Natural Grass) Jacksonville, Florida— Week 1,Sunday, 1:00PMEastern, CBS Network
By Jeff Hochman of JHSportsline.com
Point Spread: Broncos +3/Jags -3
Line Movement: This lined opened Jags -1.5 and an Over/Under of 42 way back in May.
The Broncos shocked the entire NFL by starting 6-0 with victories over Cincinnati, New England, Dallas and San Diego last season. All six of those teams made the playoffs last year and things were looking bright in the Mile-High city. Something went terribly wrong after defeating the Chargers in week six. Denver went on to lose eight out of their next ten games, becoming the third since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to start 6-0 and miss the playoffs.
Josh McDaniels returns has head coach coming off his 8-8 rookie campaign. He made a lot of game management mistakes last season and has been known for taking risks. Drafting Tim Tebow from the Gatorscould be called a risk but there is obviously something he likes from the former Heisman winner. Tim has looked good in spots going up against vanilla defenses this Pre-season. I think the Broncos have “Wildcat” plans for him this regularseason.
Kyle Orton is very efficient atmanagingthe offense but did rely on a lot of short passes to Brandon Marshall last season. That won’t be an option this season as he was sent packing to Miami. Georgia standout running back Knowshon Maoreno returns for his sophomore season. He showed flashes of brilliance last year but also struggled to make the right reads at times. I like the Broncos wide-outs with the likes of Eddie Royal, Jabar Gafney, Brandon Stokley, and Brandon Lloyd. Even rookie receiver Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech looks like the real deal. He has the size (6’3, 229) and speed combo that has the potential to be a force on the field.
The Broncos signed some aging veterans in hopes of upgrading the defensive line. Denver was ranked 26th in rushing defense last season.Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green, and Jamal Williams are all 30+ years old but will bring a lot of experience to the group. Denver’s secondary is one of the best with Champ Baily, Andre Goodman, Renaldo Hill, and Brian Dawkins. The Broncos were ranked 3rd in pass defense last season and figure to be just as good this season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars went 11-5 in 2007, and even defeated the Steelers in a Wild Card playoff game 31-29, but two straight losing season has head coach Jack Del Rio on the “hot” seat this year. In 2008,the Jags went 5-11 and did improve by two games going 7-9 last year.
This year’s team will be hard-pressed to crack the seven win total again. For a team that likes to run the ball more often than not, having your best player (Maurice Jones-Drew) hobbled in Pre-season is a concern.Maurice earned a Pro Bowl bid rushing 312 times for 1,391 yards. He caught 53 balls for 374 yards while splitting time Fred Taylor. I do like Rashard Jennings as a Fantasy running back sleeper if MJD misses significant time. Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas caught 111 balls between the two of them. The jury is still out on whether QuarterbackDavid Garrard can get back to his 102.2 passer rating days of 2007.
The defense always plays hard for Jack Del Rio, even though they don’t alwayshave the skill-set to shutdown opposing offenses. Jacksonville was ranked 27th against the pass and 19th against the run.The Jagsupgraded their defense line by signing Aaron Kampman and drafting fourlineman. Jacksonville had only 14 sacks last season, lowest in the league. They hope the new unit will be more stout against the run as well. In the season finale last year, the Browns passed the ball just 11 times, but ran 60 times for 300 yards. That will not get it done! The Jags are set at cornerback with Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox. Mathis has great cover skills but has been injured a lot. He started only ten games last year but DerekCox started all sixteen. Both players are capable of making the Pro-bowl if they can stay healthy.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Denver Broncos +3.
The Broncos secondary will be able to shutdown Jacksonville’s passing attack without much effort. Denver will than focus on stoppingthe run with only their front seven.Maurice Jones-Drew injury is a minor concernand he is coming off a heavy workload in 2009-10.Denver has a history of starting fastso don’t be surprised if the Broncos win this game straight-up. Take Denver plus the points!
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