What a difference October has made for the 2016 outlook for the Jags and previously embattled coach Gus Bradley. Victory in London over the Colts three weeks ago, followed by a bye and then a fourth quarter rally/win in Chicago last Sunday has things looking up in J’ville.
Today they welcome the Oakland Raiders to Everbank Field with a chance to, dare we say, become relevant in the AFC South race by winning? Yes we do dare, because it’s true.
Now, here are three things to watch:
Hey, I know you.
Sunday is the return of former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio to the place where he led the Jags for nine seasons including two post-season berths. His new team the Raiders are improved and have already won in the Big Easy and in Baltimore re-energizing their fan base. But forget about nostalgia, the Jags want to be rude hosts themselves and at least after they likely honor him briefly before the game, once the whistle blows, JDR is the enemy standing in the way.
Where the Jags must be better
As our Chris Fischer detailed earlier in the week, QB Blake Bortles and the Jags are the worst team in the league on 3rd down. That obviously has to improve starting today. No excuses with the weapons that Bortles has for that to not be better. And one way is to get the run game going. Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, someone, has establish things, especially early. Jacksonville is second to last in the NFL in rushing yards. That’s fine if you have a prolific pass offense to make up for it. They don’t. If they become one dimensional early, it’s advantage Oakland.
Finally, Cardiac Raiders should be feared
Starting with their dramatic rally in New Orleans week one, where QB Derek Carr led the last minute comeback throwing a TD pass in the final minute and then hitting WR Michael Crabtree with a brilliant touch throw 2-pt conversion for the win over the Saints, the Raiders have built a comeback reputation. Throw in their last minute rally in Baltimore and their 14 point comeback in the final few minutes at home over the Chargers, and it’s now proven: they will find a way to win it late, if you allow them.
So the Jags have to get up on them, pound them if they can with the run in the second half, but most of all, be ready to bring the defensive pressure in the fourth to stop any possibly rallies this week by Carr, Crabtree and the dangerous WR Amari Cooper.