JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2017 season, eight Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton and J.P. Shadrick – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field in an AFC Wild Card playoff game.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if:They don't turn the ball over. The Jags can't make mistakes against the Bills like they did in San Francisco and Tennessee.
The Bills will win if: They take some chances. This is the classic "we're-not-supposed-to-be-here" game for Buffalo: Fourth and short, pass when you think they will run, etc. The Bills will take some shots.
As Ballou sees it:Jaguars, 20-14. The defense makes a big play and the top rushing offense has success against one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They get back to a bit of vertical passing early in the game. The Jaguars' passing game has struggled of late with the young receivers struggling. Hitting some early downfield passes was a big part of the Jags' winning streak. That will open up the run, to which the Bills can be susceptible. The fans will be out of their minds early in this one. Some early success and EverBank Field will explode. And the Jags could really roll.
The Bills will win if:If they withstand the first quarter and a half and overcome the enthusiasm and crowd. If the Bills get a lead early and force the Jags to play from behind they have a chance.
As Frangie sees it:The Jags have the better team and will be jacked out of their minds. Barring a rash of self-inflicted wounds, I think the Jags win comfortably.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if:They protect the football offensively. The Jaguars rarely turn the ball over in games in which they score early. Scoring early would allow the offense to stick with a running game and utilize play action to keep an opportunistic Bills secondary off balance. It would also allow a Jaguars defense to energize a playoff-hungry crowd.
The Bills will win if: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor can utilize his legs to create big plays. Taylor most likely will be without an effective LeSean McCoy, who is a great running back when healthy. Taylor loves to leave the pocket and will look to run or throw when doing so. If his eyes remain downfield when escaping the pocket it can stress a defense's coverage opening big-play opportunities.
As Lageman sees it:The Jaguars will be very physical along the offensive line and establish running back Leonard Fournette early, opening opportunities for the Jaguars' young wide receivers. Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole will both have strong games. The Jaguars' defense will stifle any hint of a Bills running game and put too much pressure on Taylor and a passing game that cannot operate effectively when staying "on schedule."
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if:They don't turn the ball over more than twice. It's the playoffs and turnovers are paramount. The Jags are good enough to overcome a turnover or two, but the seven turnovers the last two weeks are insurmountable in January football.
The Bills will win if: They can get Taylor over 60 yards rushing and force turnovers. Buffalo doesn't match up in a lot of areas better than the Jaguars, but the Bills do limit mistakes. The Bills need to play a clean game and hope the Jags give them short-field opportunities to score from point-blank range.
As Martineau sees it:I think the Jaguars are going to win handily. This is a good matchup for Jacksonville and they may catch a break with a banged-up McCoy. The Jags do need to get back to their season-long identity of running the football with success and playing dominating defense. If the Jags do that, they will be playing in Pittsburgh next week.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if:They don't commit turnovers and their receivers make plays. The Jaguars lost the turnover battle 7-2 in two losses to end the regular season, and the Bills thrive on forcing turnovers. If the Jaguars don't give the Bills interception-fueled momentum – and if Cole and Westbrook make the plays they haven't made in recent weeks – the Jaguars win this one.
The Bills will win if:They keep the Jaguars' defense from dominating. Taylor has the elusiveness to frustrate the Jaguars' aggressive front seven. Can the Bills run effectively without McCoy, or if he plays through his ankle injury? If the Jaguars' defense can play with a lead – and with the aggressiveness that defined much of the team's season – this will be a tough task for Buffalo.
As Oehser sees it:The combination of the Jaguars' defense and a frenzied EverBank Field should be the Jaguars' winning formula. What gives the Bills a chance is their ability to create turnovers. If they frustrate the Jaguars' offense early, they can stay in this game and win it.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can run and dictate tempo. That hasn't been the case the last two weeks – and truthfully, the run game has been sporadic since the bye week. They face a Buffalo defense that hasn't been very good against the run since they traded defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars in October, allowing an average of 147 yards per game in December. The running game sets up the passing attack and – as importantly – keeps the defense fresh and on the sidelines which only fuels the fire of this defense. If running backs Fournette, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon can combine for 150 yards rushing, the Jags will win.
The Bills will win if:They create turnovers. It has been part of their formula for winning in what looked like a rebuilding season. Buffalo has 25 takeaways, the fourth most in the AFC and seventh most in the NFL in 2017. Both safeties, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, have five interceptions and rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White has four. The Bills don't get many sacks but they affect the quarterback and have forced 25 fumbles, which is the same as the Jaguars. The Jaguars committed seven turnovers in San Francisco and Tennessee combined and lost both games. If the Bills get in on the game, they can advance.
As Sexton sees it:The Jaguars are better on both sides of the ball and should win. The Jaguars' defense should overwhelm Taylor, especially with McCoy a major question mark for Sunday. If the running game gets on track, which I expect it will, the Jaguars win by two touchdowns.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if:They can get an early lead and establish a consistent running game. The Bills' defense finished the regular season 29th in the NFL against the run, and the Jaguars would love to get back to their early-season form on the ground.
The Bills will win if: They find players other than McCoy to make plays. With their running back's status in question, who would be the next man up to make plays around Taylor? Great question …
As Shadrick sees it:The Jaguars should be able to harness the intensity of a sold-out crowd of over 69,000 and dismantle a Bills team that had to rally to sneak in as the No. 6 seed. Soak it in and enjoy. Create new memories if you're one of the lucky ones able to get into EverBank Field … DVR it if you're at home and cherish it ... Then it's on to Pittsburgh in the divisional round.