Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at Dallas Cowboys (1-5, 1-5 ATS)
Sunday October 31st, 1:00PM Eastern Cowboy Stadium Dallas, T.X.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Jax +6.5/Dal -6.5
Over/Under Total: 42.5
Many would argue that the Dallas Cowboys season was already over after a 1-4 start, but those claims were secured when they were beaten by the Giants at home last Monday 41-35. Not only did the Cowboys shockingly drop to 1-5, but star QB Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone and will likely miss several weeks. As if the struggling Cowboys needed any more problems, backup Jon Kitna will now try to pick up the pieces as the Cowboys host the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday afternoon. Jacksonville has also had their own struggles over the last few weeks dropping two games in a row in which they were outscored 72-23 by the Titans and Chiefs. However, the Jaguars have a keen opportunity to right the ship when the battle the Cowboys this Sunday and get back to the .500 mark on the season.
So far this season it has been the Jaguars offense that has really struggled ranking towards the bottom of the NFL with 301 yards and just 18.6 points per game. QB David Garrard has thrown for just 838 yards with 9 touchdowns and 7 picks. Garrard has struggled with consistency all season and actually missed the Kansas City game as he continued to recover from a concussion. Garrard will be back under center this Sunday and despite the consistency problems he gives the Jaguars the best chance to win. Garrard does not have a “superstar” type go to guy in the passing game, but TE Marcedes Lewis has been the go to man down in the red zone catching 5 touchdown passes on the season.
The Jaguars main success on offense comes from the legs of tailback Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew has rushed for 510 yards on the season and he is averaging about 20 touches per game. Surely the Jaguars coach staff understands that the Cowboys offense will not be the same without Romo so I would not be surprised if they turned Garrard loose and let him attempt some throws down field. Garrard has been under tight control this season with play calling, but that could change this Sunday so look for Lewis and WR Mike Thomas to be the beneficiaries if that happens to play out.
On defense the Jaguars have been one of the worse groups in the league allowing 382 yards and nearly 30 points per game. However, Cowboys QB Jon Kitna did not exactly prove he could lead the offense up and down the field last week in replacement for Romo. Kitna was just 16 of 33 passing for 187 yards. However, Dallas did have a breakout performance from rookie WR Dez Bryant. Bryant caught both touchdown passes from that Kitna threw in the contest and also returned 93 punt return for a touchdown. It is safe to say with Miles Austin also on the outside, the Cowboys have some extreme young talent for the 14 year veteran Kitna to target. Austin has 524 yards for 2 touchdowns on the season and also TE Jason Witten is possibly the best pass catching tight end in the league. Therefore, it will be up to Kitna to prove he can get the ball in the hands of his playmakers.
If Kitna is not able to deliver, it would not be shocking to see Dallas put more focus on the ground game. Over the past few weeks, the Cowboys rushing attack has nearly been abandoned which has also contributed to the offensive line troubles as well. However, expect them to try to run the ball a bit more against a weaker Jaguars rush defense with tailback Felix Jones in attempt to take some pressure of Kitna. Jones has been held to just 264 yards on the season, but this will be his perfect chance to have a big game running the football. In fact, the ground game may be the Cowboys only option to save their season from totally going in the dumpster. Kitna is not a guy that can throw the ball 30-40 times per game like Romo so it will be all critical to get Jones and Marion Barber to start pounding out some yards on the ground if they are going to capture wins in Romo’s absence.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Dallas is just 1-5 ATS this season and this is a situation where they are getting too many points with the unproven Kitna behind center. Take Jacksonville in the points and also consider a play on the under as both offenses will struggle.