All three state teams are in action on Sunday with the Bucs and Dolphins hosting divisional opponents at home and the Jaguars and the key AFC South match up on the road.
Let’s start with the Jaguars, who will welcome back prize free agent quarterback Nick Foles (above) for the first time in 10 weeks. This after Foles suffered a left broken collarbone in the first quarter of his first game with Jacksonville in Week one against Kansas City.
Foles comes back to a situation where a rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew helped the Jaguars win four games in his absence and have the Jaguars at least in contention in the AFC South. Jacksonville must get running back Leonard Fournette back on track, as when last we saw him, he registered only 40 yards rushing in the 26 – 3 loss to the Texans in London two weeks ago.
The Colts will welcome back quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who missed last week’s loss at home to the lowly Dolphins do to a sprained knee. Brissett has been a pleasant surprise since taking over on the eve of the season for the abruptly retired Andrew Luck.
This is the first of two meetings on the year for Jacksonville and Indy, as they will play at TIAA Bank Field to end the season week 17.
Meanwhile, in Tampa, the Buccaneers host the first place New Orleans Saints in an NFC South matchup. The Bucs won dramatically over Arizona last, week when Jameis Winston led the game-winning Drive of 92 yards in the final 3 minutes for a 30 – 27 win. Winston is still under scrutiny after throwing two more interceptions a week ago and has 14 on the year to lead the NFL.
The Saints were humbled at home by a 1-7 Atlanta team last week. Not only did the Falcons defeat them, but their defense held Drew Brees and Co. to just nine points; the lowest output since he became the Saints starting quarterback 14 seasons ago.
The Buccaneers secondary is in flux after they released former number 1 pick, Vernon Hargreaves, earlier this week for lack of hustle and productivity under first-year coordinator Todd Bowles’ new defense. Tampa Bay will go with rookies Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean. And, the Bucs better be ready for the best pass-catching receiver in the NFL, Michael Thomas.
As for the Dolphins, we did not think we would write the sentence: they have a chance for a three-game win streak, especially after an 0-7 horrendous start. However, that’s exactly what’s at stake as they play longtime AFC East rival Buffalo at Hard Rock Stadium.
Solid play by veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, timely defense by Miami and some clutch field goal kicking from Jason Sanders last week has enabled Miami to perk up and win their last two games. Sanders kicked three field goals and was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in the 16 – 12 win over the Colts a week ago.
Buffalo started the year 6 – 2 but played poorly in the second half of last week’s loss to the Browns. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen will try to get them back on the winning track this week. The Bill’s already own a victory last month in Western New York over the Fins.
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.