Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3 SU, 0-3 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (2-1 SU, 3-0 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date and Time: Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 4:05pm EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: JAX +14/SD -14
Over/Under Total: 44.5
On Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars come into Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers. San Diego may have blown a two-touchdown lead against Arizona in week one on MNF, but they have impressed since, beating Seattle and Buffalo, while covering the spread comfortably each time. Jacksonville, well, thats another issue, as the Jaguars keep discovering new layers of bedrock as they continue to redefine what rock bottom truly represents.
You dont want to be too hard on a team that is making an effort to rebuild, but if this were like some soccer leagues around the world, Jacksonville would certainly be relegated to a lower-level league. It looked good at halftime of week one, with the Jags leading the Eagles 17-0. Any early thoughts of a Jacksonville upswing were quickly snuffed out. From then, Jacksonville was outscored 108-13 over the next 9+ quarters in a stunning display of ineptitude.
If looking for silver lining, Jacksonville will be going with top draft pick and rookie Blake Bortles at quarterback. On one hand, this could become a case of throwing a youngster to the lions. Then again, Bortles represents the future and needs game-time to develop. And for what its worth, he did manage to move a Jaguars offense on Sunday that was stuck in the mud. Bortles came into the game and at least got things moving with two touchdown passes on 223 yards, though he threw a few picks. But this was against a Colts defense that knew the game was in hand.
San Diego is cruising along nicely now, following a win over the defending Super Bowl champions Seattle and a road win over a 2-0 Buffalo. The defense is making plays–both pressuring opposing quarterbacks while not giving up an unending series of big plays, especially through the air. But the offense really looks good. QB Philip Rivers is playing as well as he ever did in the past year-plus. He is steely and confident, deadly accurate, and making very few miscues. Its all coming to him instinctively now, as the 11th year vet works with a deep repertoire of artillery.
Early in the week, we learned RB Danny Woodhead will be lost for the season. This is on the heels of RB Ryan Mathews going down with a sprained MCL. Hell eventually return, but they have now lost their top two running backs from last season and a valuable pass-catcher in Woodhead. And injuries are the one thing that could derail a potentially big year for San Diego. They lost Mathews and Woodhead, along with linebackers Manti Teo and blossoming pass rusher Melvin Ingram. A few weeks ago, they lost their starting center Nick Hardwick. If injuries keep occurring at this rate, its going to get tough for the surging Chargers.
Despite a dilapidated run-game that will now be depending on Donald Brown, there are still ample weapons available for Rivers. Antonio Gates is still a big-time tight end. The comeback of Malcom Floyd adds a legitimate deep threat. On Sunday against Buffalo, he caught a pair of 49-yard passes. Eddie Royal is a sure-handed ball-catcher who seemingly always comes through in a pinch. Its only a matter of time before Keenan Allen explodes. And Ladarius Green adds another big body for Rivers to target. The variety of different playmakers on this team is a weapon in itself.
Through 3 games, Jacksonvilles defense ranks dead-last in both the pass and run. Teams are scoring practically at will. They are unable to sustain a consistent pass rush and are being run over by opposing lines. Offensively, there are some rising ball-catchers in the mix, youngsters like Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, and Marquise Lee. With Bortles now in there, maybe he can find some rapport with this group and at least prevent games from becoming laughers.
Teams are not as bad as they look at their worst. Three games is a decent sample-size, but its possible to over-emphasize Jacksonvilles failings during this time. If the 3 games were in weeks 9-11, you wouldnt pay it as much mind as you would in the first 3 games of the season. Jacksonville indisputably stinks, but those looking to blindly bet against them every week thinking every match-up will be a blowout are likely to be left in the dust.
For example, last season, the Jaguars were going through a situation much like this one, before doing an about-face, at least as far as covering the spread is concerned. They only covered the spread twice in their first ten games, with most of the losses being of the blowout variety. In their next six games, they only failed to cover twice. The point-spread of 14 is a culmination of the terrible form they have shown in the last ten quarters. But San Diego is a team you feel better taking as maybe a small favorite or an underdog. Its difficult to recall them being this big of a favorite over any team in recent years. Its a role they are unfamiliar with, but it could be coming at a good time.
San Diego could be better than what a lot of people are thinking. The injuries are concerning, but theyve done well filling in the voids so far. They are carrying a lot of momentum and now return home against a team where they should be able to showcase the full scope of their power, especially on offense. Jacksonville could turn things around at least a little with Bortles now taking over the reigns. But this is a tough first start for a rookie–against a team that is riding high in front of a home-crowd that has become really pumped-up and gotten fully behind this team. I see San Diego dropping the hammer in this one and covering the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the San Diego Chargers minus 14 points.