The folks who run the NFL don’t do many dumb things and that makes me wonder who thought it was a good idea to match two bad small-market, low-profile teams for a nationally televised game in mid-December. Wouldn’t this be a more appealing game in, say, mid-September?
I realize when the schedule was made no one knew what the records of Jacksonville and Tennessee would be, but nearly everyone expected them to have lousy seasons. And, indeed, they have. Has there ever been a nationally televised game matching a pair of 2-12 teams? It’s a good guess the ratings will be among their lowest ever for an NFL game.
Now for the good news: The popularity of the NFL is so great that even a game like this will blow away the competition.
Maybe it isn’t so dumb after all.
The game, however, will be hard on the more sensitive Jaguars and Titans fans.
If you’re a teal-and-black bleeding Jaguars fan I’m warning you right now to not watch, listen or read any national sports media this week.
The Thursday night game at Everbank Field is the Jaguars first and only nationally televised game of the season. They have the NFL all to themselves.
And that means everyone from sea to shining sea is going to be making fun of your Jaguars and the Titans. Your team will be the butt of jokes and the target of mean-spirited criticism.
The national focus will be about how bad the Jaguars are and how bad they’ve been for the last four years (13-49). A national game featuring pair of 2-12 teams screams for the pundits to come up with their best one-line putdowns.
Fans clamor for national attention, but there’s an ugly side to the big spotlight. If you’re sensitive . . . well, you’ve been warned.
This week prediction:
Titans (2-12) at Jaguars (2-12), 8:25 p.m. – How could this game be worse, you ask? Well, remember the Titans are down to their third-string quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst -- and they weren’t very good offensively with their first two. Then we have the offensively challenged Jaguars with their rookie quarterback, Blake Bortles, limping because of a foot injury. (He could even be a last-minute scratch.) The Titans are playing so bad the Jaguars are the favorites, the first time they’ve been favored to win in their last 43 games. For the record, the Titans average 16½ points a game and the Jaguars average 15. Oh well, the tailgating should be a blast for a night game. The Titans, 3-point underdogs, win 12-9.
I differ from most of my colleagues in that I try to look objectively at the Jaguars and not as a fan, but I openly admit I like to see them win.
It is that light that I have to admit I actually enjoyed Sunday’s game at Baltimore. And, no, this doesn’t have anything to do with the 20-12 loss being a moral victory.
I enjoyed it because it was competitive, the outcome not being decided until the Jaguars last possession. Like most of you if you’ll be honest with yourself, I was expecting a blowout
I enjoyed it because I like the way the defense played. And, yes, I realize opponents get conservative on offense when they play the Jaguars because the Jaguars’ offense stinks. Why take chances?
And I enjoyed it because I liked the way Coach Gus Bradley threw out the standard coaching handbook and did the unexpected. Part of that is because, like most fans, I want to see teams take more chances by going for it on 4th down, etc. I just know I loved the onside kickoff, the faked punt and the willingness to throw the ball down field against the Ravens. Why not try those things? What do the Jaguars have to lose? Does 3-11 mean that much more than 2-12 (the Jags record)?
I’ve been saying for several weeks it was time for the Jaguars to do some experimenting and forget about wins and losses. Let’s find out if Blake Bortles is accurate throwing deep. Let’s find out if Marquis Lee, Allen Hurns and Cecil Shorts can get open deep. Let’s find out if Marcedes Lewis is worth keeping around. Let’s find out if a healthy Toby Gerhart can carry the running load.
In the end Sunday in Baltimore it was the same old result but at least getting there kept me interested and that’s seldom been the case the last two seasons.
I was the guest on a Baltimore radio station this week, presumably to talk about Sunday’s Jaguars-Ravens game. But the show host spent most of the conversation thanking the Jaguars for all of the help they’ve sent to Baltimore.
RB Justin Forsett has been a savior, replacing Ray Rice and becoming one of the NFL’s top ball-carriers.
Forsett runs behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, anchored by left tackle Eugene Monroe.
LB Daryl Smith may be the Ravens’ defensive MVP. Smith, an every-down middle linebacker, replaced the retiring Ray Lewis last year and the defense hasn’t missed a beat.
The Jaguars gave away Forsett and Smith and traded Monroe for little or nothing.
“Jacksonville’s been like a farm team for the Ravens,” joked the host.
No one is Jacksonville is laughing. The Jaguars badly need help at running back, offensive line and linebacker.
It’s bad enough not to get the right players. It’s worse to have them and push them out the door.
The week’s prediction:
Jaguars (2-11) at Ravens (8-5), 1 p.m. – Baltimore is thinking about more than just making the playoffs. The Ravens are solid in all phases of the game and think they can make a run to the title. Still, because they’re in the powerful AFC North, they know they can’t afford to lose a home game, much less to a bottom feeder like the Jaguars. The Jaguars are simply trying not to be worst offensive team in the NFL. The Ravens, favored by 13½, win 31-17.
Talking about the poll and the bowls . . .
· I can’t imagine the folks who run college football being as stupid as they appear so the only reasonable explanation is they love the controversy.
The idea, for example, that Alabama and Akron play at the same level – like Green Bay and New England are both NFL teams – is laughable, of course. And to then try and separate the best four teams from the pack with so few common dominators is impossible.
And to do this with a committee made up of people with vested interests in certain conferences and teams is ridiculous.
I don’t have a problem with the final four teams but it’s impossible to know if they are, indeed, the four teams. Sure, Baylor and TCU have every right to feel like they were screwed. A handful of other teams quietly feel the same way.
Every national champion ought to come with an asterisk.
· I’ll never understand why so many people, especially college football fans, get so bent out of shape because there are so many bowl games. For the record, there are 38 this year.
There was a time – decades ago -- when a bowl game was a reward for a school having a good season. Now bowl games exist because they’re inexpensive programming for TV networks; because coaches love the extra practice time; and because cities enjoy the economical impact of hosting major events.
Live sporting events routinely draw better TV ratings than reruns during holiday season.
Most coaches use bowl practice as a jumpstart to the next season.
Even the smallest of bowls draw thousands of visitors with money burning holes in their pockets to the host cities.
Quit whining because there are so many bowl games. Quit trying to spoil my fun. Just zip it and don’t watch them.
What bothers me the most about the Jaguars is here we are in December and the team looks about the same as it did in early October. I keep hearing that because the team is so young we should expect to see fairly rapid improvement.
We’re not. The team that lost 27-13 to an average Houston team Sunday looked about like it’s looked all year – and that’s not a good thing.
Sure, there are some areas where we’ve seen glimpses of improvement, but overall this is a team, particularly on offense, that doesn’t do anything worth a damn. Defensively, the Jaguars are decent, but there are still too many mental lapses, which lead to big plays.
I don’t question the team’s effort. They play hard and I think they work hard in preparation. That’s the scary thing because that means they simply lack talent.
The man is charge of acquiring talent is General Manager David Caldwell. Obviously two years isn’t enough time to make final evaluations, but to this point Caldwell’s grade isn’t looking good. Left tackle Luke Joeckel, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, safety Johnathan Cyprien and wide receiver-kick returner Ace Sanders all look like they were “over drafted”. There are still plenty of football folks who think taking quarterback Blake Bortles No. 3 overall was too high and Teddy Bridgewater was the better quarterback.
Among Caldwell’s free agent signings, LB Dekota Watson was a total waste and RB Toby Gerhart, guard Zane Beadles and DT Ziggy Hood were grossly overpaid.
There is a good side, of course. CB Demetrius McCray (7th round), center Luke Bowanko (6th), WR Allen Robinson (2nd), guard Brando Linder (3rd) and free agent rookie WR Allen Hurns make Caldwell look good. Ditto for free agent signee Sen’Derrick Marks, who deserves a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl team.
The jury is still out on WR Marquis Lee, who the Caldwell wanted badly enough to trade up and take high in the second round. Lee looked lost until the last two games.
CB Aaron Colvin is another Caldwell draft choice (4th) who has played well since finally getting on the field after surgery.
What all this means is this offseason likely will determine Caldwell’s future with the Jaguars. The team has plenty of money it must spend and Caldwell needs to hit big on some free agents. He’ll be shopping for offensive linemen, pass-rushers, linebackers, tight ends and running backs. What he doesn’t find in free agency he needs to find in the draft.
Bottom line is if the Jaguars are going to stop being an NFL laughingstock it will take much more than the current players showing improvement. The Jaguars need a lot more talent.
Its prediction Friday and I’m predicting the Gators made a good hire in Jim McElwain.
Only time will tell, of course, but McElwain meets all of the requirements Florida would look for in a head football coach. He’s succeeded as a head coach under difficult circumstances; he’s familiar with the SEC; he’s considered an offensive guru; and he has the personality to charm alumni, boosters, media and recruits.
I’ll be surprised if McElwain doesn’t get the Gators back to elite status. That means being a contender for the SEC title most years and occasionally in the hunt for the national title.
I’m also predicting the Jaguars offense continues to struggle. Beating the Giants last week was nice but it didn’t solve the Jaguars’ glaring problems.
The improvement of wide receiver Marquis Lee stands out so much because most of the other offensive areas continue to struggle. QB Blake Bortles hasn’t a good game in a month, tight end Marcades Lewis has been invisible and the offensive line has been a swinging door.
Perhaps no player is a bigger concern than left tackle Luke Joeckel. The second overall pick last year, Joeckel continues to be more bust than boom. Sure, it’s still a bit too early to label him a bust, but his weaknesses were exposed badly by the Giants. The odds of seeing much improvement aren’t good this week with the Texans and “You Know Who” coming to town.
This week’s other predictions:
Texans (6-6) at Jaguars (2-10), 1 p.m. – Houston excels at creating turnovers and the Jaguars are a turnover machine. Sounds like a matchup made in hell for the Jaguars. Texan stud J.J. Watt dreams about playing such games. Jaguar left tackle Luke Joeckel must be having nightmares. Houston, favored by 3, wins 21-14.
Florida State (12-0) vs. Georgia Tech (10-2), Charlotte, 8 p.m. – The good news for the Seminoles is they have the athletes who can run sideline to sideline and stop the Yellow Jackets’ triple option. The bad news is FSU’s defenders lack the discipline necessary to shut down such an offense. My gut tells me to take Tech, but I just can’t do it for some reason. FSU favored by 3½, wins 38-31.
Alabama (11-1) vs. Missouri (10-2), Atlanta, 4 p.m. – Can Alabama lose such a big game to a team that lost at home to Indiana and got steamrolled by Georgia, also in the Tigers’ stadium? Missouri’s defensive line is outstanding and will present problems for the Tide, but ‘Bama has too much talent. The Tide, favored by 14, wins 42-24.