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Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Pick.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Buffalo Bills (4-7 SU, 5-6 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012, 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, N.Y.
TV: CBS/DirecTV 709
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Jax +6/BUF -6
Over/Under Total: 45
What originally was supposed to be a game featuring up and coming teams has instead turned into a battle for next year’s draft position when the two-win Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium to take on the four-win Buffalo Bills in a Sunday afternoon AFC clash on CBS.
The Bills made a big splash in the offseason when they signed big-name free agent defensive end Mario Williams and added fellow end Mark Anderson to the other side, but the additions have done very little to shore up a weak Buffalo defense and the results speak for themselves. Buffalo has lost four of their last five games, including a 20-13 loss last week at Indianapolis, to essentially drop out of playoff contention unless there’s some sort of miraculous 180-degree turnaround combined with a complete collapse among the rest of the contending teams in the AFC.
Jacksonville is actually coming off their first win in the last eight games, a tough 24-19 win at home over Tennessee for just their second victory of the season. The Jaguars have played surprisingly well in the past two weeks, taking the Houston Texans into overtime two weeks ago before losing a tough one, but many would argue it’s not a coincidence that it happened at the same time they put “franchise” QB Blaine Gabbert on IR and started veteran Chad Henne in his place.
Henne has responded with two of the best games of his career, with over 600 yards passing with six touchdowns, which has led to a lot of speculation that Henne, not Gabbert, is the Jags quarterback of the future. At 2-9 with no shot at the playoffs, you can expect the Jaguars to kick the tires on Henne and find out what he can do, and another strong game on the road in Buffalo could give him the job for more than just the final five games of the season.
But the odds appear to be stacked against Henne and the Jags, literally, since the opening point spread was set with Buffalo as 6-point favorites. The early action on this game has been fairly mixed, especially since some of the bigger offshore sportsbooks have been forced to drop the number down to minus -5.5, while a few others in Las Vegas have gone the other way going up to minus -7.
The over/under total opened at 45 and has held at that number at most books, with only a few going up the hook to 45.5.
When handicapping this game it has occurred that these two teams and their struggles are not related to the offenses in any way, although you’d have an argument that the Jaguars are a completely different unit with Henne in control instead of Gabbert. No, these two squads only have six wins between them because of a lack of defense, plain and simple.
Jacksonville’s defense has struggled to stop anyone this year, since they’re giving up big yardage in both the passing game (275 ypg -28th) and on the ground (136 ypg), and the end result has resulted in big numbers on the scoreboard since they allow 28 points per game (29th). Part of the problem for the Jags has been a complete lack of pressure too, since they are 31st in the NFL with only 13 sacks on the year. To put that in perspective, Aldon Smith (16.5), J.J. Watt (14) and Von Miller (14) all have more sacks this year than the entire Jaguars team.
It probably won’t make a whole lot of difference, but the Jaguars starting corner Derek Cox is hurt again (leg) and listed as questionable. Jacksonville has played most of the year without him already, so the Bills won’t gain too much of an advantage.
Buffalo has played better on defense of late, but they still give up giant chunks of yards in the running game (147 ypg - 31st) and huge scoring numbers on the scoreboard (29 ppg - 30th). Anderson, one of the offseason acquisitions that was supposed to bring pressure is hurt (knee) and hasn’t played in weeks, and Williams is getting schemes tailored against him and it has made him largely ineffective.
The good news is that the Jaguar offense probably won’t be able to take advantage of the Bills weak run defense, since they have yet to find an answer at running back since Maurice Jones-Drew went down. MJD hasn’t played since week seven, yet he still leads the team in rushing since Rashad Jennings just can’t get going (263 yards, 2.8 ypc). Jennings also has huge issues in pass protection, which is partly why the Jags gave up seven sacks last week to a Titans defense that only had 16 sacks going into the game.
The Jags and Bills haven’t played each other since the 2010 season, when the Jaguars went into Ralph Wilson and laid a, 36-26, whoopin’ on the home team. In fact, the Jaguars have won three of their five trips to upstate New York (3-2 SU in Buffalo), but this is not the same Jacksonville team so take it for what its worth.
The betting trends also seem to point in the Jags favor, since the road team is 6-2 ATS in the head-to-head series over the years and the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. Jacksonville has also been a great wager when they’re on the road this season, going 4-0 ATS in all four of the games away from Jacksonville this year and 6-0 ATS going back into last season as well.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Jaguars are playing much better with Chad Henne at QB. The more he plays the more it appears how bad Blaine Gabbert was. I’m betting the Jaguars plus the points.
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