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USA Today season NFL picks likes Jaguars but not other state teams

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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With a few NFL training camps opening up this past weekend and more coming later this week, including in North Florida, West Central Florida and South Florida, the predictions are already rolling in on what the Bucs, the Dolphins and the Jaguars will do this season. And, a writer at USA Today, who has been projecting the upcoming seasons for several years believes in one of the state of Florida’s teams, but not the other two.

Football staff writer Nate Davis published Monday morning the USA Today 2019 NFL record projections by picking all 256 regular-season games and then the 11 postseason games for this year:

Davis really likes the Jacksonville Jaguars chances for bouncing back this season and wrote,

“Should be fascinating to see if they get the Super Bowl MVP Philly version of new QB Nick Foles (above) or the sub-Bortles St. Louis version from 2015, the last time “Saint Nick” started for more than half a season. His reunion with new OC (and former Eagles assistant) John DeFilippo should help. But will Foles get sufficient help from what projects as a limited suite of aerial weapons? And will a defense that’s been beset by distractions reach its vast potential?”

He ends up having Jacksonville with a 10 and 6 record and making the postseason as a Wild-card team. The Jags were the AFC South champs and hosted a playoff game two years ago. This season Davis has them losing out on a tiebreaker to the Indianapolis Colts for the South title.

Davis does not believe as much in the Miami Dolphins. Much like everyone else, he has the Dolphins near the bottom of the NFL due to a lack of quality personnel and a new coaching staff,

A talent-strapped team with a rookie head coach (Brian Flores) and a new QB1 (whether it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen … and both will likely get opportunities to start) opens against four straight 2018 playoff squads before hitting the bye. Good chance this campaign is effectively over before it has chance to get off the ground.

Davis has the Fins with only three wins for this season and believes, as most everyone else does, that the Patriots will dominate the East, yet again with an 11-5 record.

Finally, for our state NFL teams Davis is also not a believer in Bruce Arians taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as he feels there are still too many holes for the Bucs to overcome,

They had the NFL’s No. 1 passing offense in 2018 but couldn’t run the ball. As good a coach as Bruce Arians is, he’s got a major challenge trying to improve on that formula in such a brutal division while likely getting this one shot at salvaging Jameis Winston or else facing a major reboot in 2020.

A 5-11 finish would match each of the last two seasons and would be Tampa Bay’s 10th losing season in the last 12, if it happens.

As Davis points out the Bucs may very well play in the most consistently tough division in footbal (NFC South) and he interestingly has the Falcons bouncing back to win it at 11 – 5 with the Saints getting a Wild card at 10 – 6.

Davis plays all the way out in the postseason to a surprising AFC pick, the L.A. Chargers, versus the Philadelphia Eagles for the Super Bowl in February in Miami.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars injury woes continue- LB Myles Jack to IR

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Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
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The bad news on the injury front for the Jaguars continued on Thursday, when they placed star linebacker Myles Jack on injured reserve.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport had the news first:

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.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Can Jaguars get necessary spark from Gardner Minshew?

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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The Jaguars were back on the practice field on Wednesday and have to rally around their rookie QB, Gardner Minshew, to re-ignite their season. And their opponent, may be the perfect for them, too.

Minshew took over in the second half for an ineffective Nick Foles, as Foles committed turnovers on each of Jacksonville’s first three possessions. Now, he’s back as their starter to see if the 4-8 Jags can salvage some games in December.

Now, the 4-win L.A. Chargers come stumbling to North Florida off a dramatic loss in Denver and yet, somehow, have been listed as 2.5-point underdogs by top sports betting sites.

Philip Rivers and the Chargers, new-look defense is coming to Jacksonville to try and move to 5-8 and make a run at a .500 season. In effect, both of these teams’ seasons are all but over, so they are just playing for pride.  And while mathematically, the Jags are not completely out of the AFC South race, yet, let’s be honest … the Titans and Texans are not going to drop four straight games … and it definitely isn’t looking like the Jags are going to win four straight.

Coach Doug Marrone is clearly in trouble and everything they try is not working. There were plenty of games that the Jaguars could have or should have won, but didn’t. And, now they are sitting on the very bottom of the AFC South with few games remaining.

Onto to the matchup.

The Chargers have owned the Jaguars historically, as they have won in two of the last three and seven of the last ten meetings. But right now, this is a pretty good spot for the Jags.

When we look at standard offense on any given Sunday, the L.A. Chargers are about two points better than the Jacksonville Jaguars on average. The Chargers put up 20.33 points per game against the Jags 18.33. It would be nice for Jaguars fans, if the Chargers performed significantly worse on the road, but they don’t.

They are almost exactly the same level of bad whether at home in Los Angeles or out on the road. And unfortunately, for Jags fans who buy tickets to home games, they have let them down at TIAA Field by performing worse in Jacksonville, to the tune of nearly three points per game. They score just 15.83 on their home field.

The yardage stats are comparable in this one, as the Chargers pass for 255.33 per game, while the Jags pass for 242.50. The Chargers rush for 92 yards per game, while the Jags run game with Leonard Fournette has dropped off to 79.67 average, currently.

On defense, the Chargers are a respectable top ten unit (No. 7 in the league) that allows just 18.50 points per game. They hold teams to 212 yards passing and 97.83 yards rushing.

However, that’s where Minshew will put them to the test. He is far more mobile than Foles and got Jacksonville 11 points in the second half Sunday with them driving for more. That is until the rookie’s killer interception at the Tampa Bay goaline midway through the fourth quarter.

So, most of the numbers point the another Jacksonville loss. That said, the Chargers have lost three straight but have shown some flashes of brilliance. So too did Minshew, who won four games in eight tries earlier this year as the fill-in starter.

If you can avoid this game for your “Survivor Pools” do so … If you are a bettor … stay away.

This is a game where anything can happen, especially with “Minshew Mania” back.

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