All three state NFL teams are on the road with two of them playing division opponents on Sunday. And the Bucs, the Dolphins and the Jaguars all have different storylines in their matchups
First, for Jacksonville, the Florida NFL team with the most wins with four, will try to keep their fleeting hope to get into the AFC wildcard playoff picture alive. The Jags know that it will basically extinguish if, they do not come up with a victory against the Titans.
A week ago QB Nick Foles (above) returned from a 10-week absence with a broken collarbone, but led only one meaningful scoring drive in the first half as Indianapolis eventually beat them decisively 33 – 13.
Now the Jaguars plays in Nashville, a place where they have been repeatedly humbled recently, including us Thursday night loss a year ago. That’s where Titans running back Derrick Henry ran for over 200 yards and a 99 yard touchdown run to help seal the game.
Jacksonville did defeat Tennessee earlier this year when Marcus Mariota was still the Titans quarterback and they sacked him nine times in the game. Now, Tennessee is led by former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Titans at 5-5 are also hoping to be in the division and wild card playoff race. Tannehill has led them to victories in three of their last four games, since Mariota was benched.
In Atlanta, the Buccaneers stumble into an NFC South matchup at 3-7, having been also decisively beaten by one of the best teams in football, the Saints, 34-17 last Sunday at home.
Embattled quarterback Jameis Winston threw four more interceptions last week and leads the NFL with 18. While not all of the bad play has been his fault, Winston is the leader of the offense and is seeking a long-term commitment from Tampa Bay.
However, he’s only going to get a final few games at the end of the season to demonstrate that he should stick around. This is particularly because, Winston’s current record dating back two seasons ago is 7 – 22 in games that he has started. And, you couple that with all the turnovers, then at some point you run out of excuses as to why he deserves a massive contract.
The Falcons have had a mini resurgence since starting 1 – 7 with rumors everywhere that owner Arthur Blank would fire coach Dan Quinn on their bye week. Instead, Atlanta wiped out those same Saints in New Orleans two weeks ago, and last week picked off Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen four times in a blowout win in Charlotte.
And, as we wrote earlier this week, it will be the first time the Tampa Bay will play a game against two of its head coaches on the opposing sideline. Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter certainly would love to have a huge day against the team that fired him at the end of last season.. And likewise, Atlanta’s secondary coach Raheem Morris would be all smiles if his Falcons are able to put a win together against the team he coached from 2009-11.
Finally, in Cleveland the 2-8 Dolphins appear ready to battle with the “bottom feeders,” like the Bengals and Redskins for the #1 or #2 draft position. This after coming off of a division loss and season sweep to the Bills 37-20 last Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami had controversy off the field this week, when their former starting running back Mark Walton was arrested again for the fourth time this season and the team released him. Walton had already been suspended and missed two games by the NFL for violating the conduct policy.
It doesn’t seem to matter who runs the ball for Miami, as Kalen Ballage had nine carries for nine yards in the loss last week. Miami has also placed veteran defensive backs Bobby McCain and Reshad Jones on injured reserve after they were both hurt last Sunday.
The Fins will have one of the youngest and most anonymous defenses in the NFL on the field Sunday afternoon.
And, their opponent, the Browns are trying to stay in the AFC playoff picture themselves after a controversial win last Thursday night over the Steelers.
Despite the victory on the field for quarterback Baker Mayfield and Co., it has all been overshadowed by the ugly brawl at the end of the game. That’s where defensive end and former #1 overall pick, Myles Garrett, ripped the helmet off of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and swung it at him, connecting with the top of his head.
Garrett has subsequently been suspended the remainder of this season and several other Browns were fined for their involvement for dirty plays earlier and the fight at the end of the game.
Jags coach Marrone acknowledged Wednesday he’s in jeopardy
As the Jaguars 2019 season has spiraled downward, their head coach acknowledged Wednesday that there are likely changes coming in North Florida.
Head Coach Doug Marrone meets the media prior to today's practice. https://t.co/Ks19PcB0te
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) December 11, 2019
“We’re all fighting for our jobs. When you look at it from that standpoint, each person has to make their own decision on how they handle those things….It’s a constant microscope in this league, but I think it gets magnified when you are not winning football games,” Marrone said plainly.
It’s no secret that the Jaguars are plummeting. Sunday they were embarrassed again at home, this time by the L.A. Chargers 45 – 10. That was the fifth consecutive decisive loss (by at least 17 points) for a team that was once 4 – 4 and in the conversation are the AFC Wildcard picture.
Yes, there are injuries including the team losing defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and recently linebacker Myles Jack to season-ending IR. The same on offense where WR Marqise Lee never got healthy and made contributions this year. He, too is back on injured reserve.
Further, the team also had to deal with the constant off field distraction and then decided to trade away arguably their best player, defensive back Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams. Granted, Ramsey wanted out and was trying not to play while the trade was being consummated. Still, this missed him on the field and it was an issue.
Then, there’s the mess on offense, where the Jags offensive line is in shambles and Marrone had to bench high-priced free agent quarterback Nick Foles before last week’s game. That’s because of his ineffective play and lack of mobility to play behind their poor line.
Rookie Gardner Minshew, who had won four games earlier this year, didn’t do much with only 162 yards in the air and a late third-quarter touchdown that only cut the lead to 31 – 10 in the loss Sunday.
Further, running back Leonard Fournette has now been neutralized by the lack of good line play and the inability to get the passing game going. Fournette went from having a good start to the season that included three 100-yard or more games out of four in late September and October, to having five of his last six games where he has run for 50 yards or less.
So, everywhere you look, the Jags are struggling and losing, and owner Shad Khan is expected to make wholesale changes at the end of the year.
But for now, Jacksonville must go out to Oakland this week and try not to be further embarrassed there.
Jaguars injury woes continue- LB Myles Jack to IR
The bad news on the injury front for the Jaguars continued on Thursday, when they placed star linebacker Myles Jack on injured reserve.
Source: #Jaguars LB Myles Jack (knee) is going on Injured Reserve today. A hit to the Jacksonville defense.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 5, 2019
Jack missed Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers with a knee injury that was believed to be a sprain suffered in the loss to the Colts two weeks ago. However, the move to IR indicates it may be more serious.
The Jaguars season has unraveled over the course of the last month with injuries to their defense and the team trading away perennial Pro Bowl defensive back Jalen Ramsey to the Rams. Jacksonville had already put DT Marcel Dareus on IR, All-Pro defensive tackle Calais Campbell has been trying to battle through a bad back and DB Tony Harrison has still not been cleared with a concussion.
Coach Doug Marrone has expressed the last two weeks that it has been a struggle for his defense with all of the injuries mounting late in the year.
As for Jack, he had settled in the middle linebacker roll after Telvin Smith abruptly retired in May.
Jack has been solid, but not spectacular, in the middle of the defense registering 7 or more tackles in five games this season. However he hasn’t forced a fumble, has only one interception and half of a sack. Jack also has just three tackles-for-loss at a position that often dictates much more output than that.
The former second-round pick out of UCLA had question marks about his knee coming out of college, when the Jaguars took him in the 2016 draft. However, he has answered critics on his durability by being active for all 59 games of his career up until last week.
Jacksonville will use veteran Donald Payne at middle linebacker for now. Payne played significantly last week against the Buccaneers and has been on and off of Jacksonville roster this season.