So after the Jaguars missed a huge opportunity in Indianapolis, to defeat the Colts and clinch the division, they need help to make the postseason and for any hope they must win the remaining 2 games. Although both opponents look manageable on paper, I have plenty of reasons to not take them lightly. This is a young team and we don’t know yet how they will react mentally to the defeat in Indy. Plus it seems the best player of the team, Maurice Jones-Drew will miss the game this weekend, his first time because of an injury. How are the Jaguars’ chances looking without him? Let’s find out!
The Washington Redskins have been more like a bad soap opera (if you are looking it from the outside…) with DT Albert Haynesworth and lately with QB Donovan McNabb. Head Coach Mike Shanahan has tried everything to restore order in the franchise with limited success. He’ll need more time to create a competitive roster, but the Redskins’ offense still has plenty of weapons to damage the Jaguars defense, depending on how former Gator QB Rex Grossman plays on Sunday. Washington’s defense has had major issues this season and will be missing key starters for this one. Also, I think the mental toughness of both teams will be challenged in this game – Jacksonville is coming off a big loss in their most important game of the season; Washington is nothing else then a spoiler right now. So who has the edge?
Why the Jaguars will win this game:
Yeah, most likely Maurice Drew will not play. And yeah WR Mike Sims-Walker is banged up as well. But the Redskins defense is dead last in allowed yards. They are 31st against the pass, and 27th against the run. And they will be without their only effective pass-rusher (Brian Orakpo, 8.5 sacks this year, missing his first game ever as a pro). Rob Jackson, who will replace Orakpo, will start for the first time on Sunday. Most likely, their two starting safeties will be both missing the game too. SS Reed Doughty (who has replaced rising star LaRon Landry after he was sent to IR) is already listed as out and FS Kareem Moore is a game time decision. Macho Harris and Kevin Barnes can jump in if the two starters can’t play. That means the Jaguars should be able to throw the ball on Sunday, especially to TEs Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller. I’m confident that Rashad Jennings, Deji Karim, and Greg Jones can be effective without Maurice. I even expect 1-2 big gain (20+) carries out of the 2nd year player and the rookie back.
Another factor which boosts the Jaguars chances is the mental edge, if they can build up a nice gap (10 point or more) in the first half. If that happens, I expect that some of the Redskins players will quit. I think especially among the veterans can we expect such things. Watch out for the young players who want to prove to Shanahan, they have a place on this roster next year.
Rex Grossman could be another advantage. Yes he played a great game last Sunday. Yes the Jaguars secondary is so bad, like the Cowboys he faced last Sunday. But I remember when last year he played for close to 20 minutes in Jacksonville (as the Texans backup QB), when Matt Schaub went down because of a Harvey sack. Grossman basically lost the game in that period for the Texans. He threw picks and the Jaguars offense turned them into touchdowns. If Jeremy Mincey and Daryl Smith can hurry him, and make him uncomfortable, that can lead to key turnovers.
Why the Redskins could produce an upset:
However, if Grossman finds his groove, he has really good weapons that could punish the Jaguars’ defense. Watch out for Chris Cooley, a great TE for Washington. We all know how the Jaguars (can’t) cover great tight ends and Cooley is a pretty decent player. The cornerbacks must handle Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong. They are both capable of torching the defensive backfield. And Mike Sellers, the FB is also a decent receiver, so the Jaguars must watch out for him.
Also in the last 2 games the Jaguars’ run defense has been horrible. Yeah Darren McFadden plays lights out for Oakland, but last week, even the unspectacular Donald Brown rushed for 129 yards. That is a major slap in Jack Del Rio’s face, because 1 month ago, the run defense was more then decent. This week the Jaguars must shut down Redskins’ RB Ryan Torain. He is the only threat in the backfield and the defense must limit him to under 50 yards. And yes that is a challenge from me for them!
In the Redskins defense, there are 3 players I worry about. London Fletcher is tackle machine. He always produces 100+ tackles and this year is no exception. The match up against Rashad Jennings will be a great duel to watch. Other then him, the biggest threats are the two CBs – Carlos Rodgers and especially DeAngelo Hall. Hall has 6 interceptions, 2nd in the league in that category. Both corners have a similar style to Rashean Mathis – they are both gamblers and very opportunistic. But as the 31st ranked pass defense shows, they often lose when they gamble. They have been especially inept outside the red zone. The Jaguars can beat them with big passing plays. Once they are in the red zone, the Redskins D is pretty effective and limit the opponent to field goals or even turnovers!
Although I really respect the Redskins, and I think this could be a close game, the Jaguars have enough offensive firepower even without Maurice Jones-Drew to win this game. It will be interesting to see if last weeks’ loss left anything in the players’ minds. If not, then this game could turn out to one of the easiest victory of the season. However if the Jaguars do show signs that the loss of last week is still heavy in their hearts, this could be a very close game. But no matter what happens in the Oakland-Indianapolis game, this is a must win game for the Jaguars! Not because of the playoffs, but because of themselves. This is most likely the last home game in the season. The fans must see that this team will fight until their last breath; that if there is hope, they will die trying. Because of this, they must avoid the hangover!
Prediction: Jaguars 27- Redskins 21