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 Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if:They pressure Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The Jags' pressure was huge last week, leading to a defensive touchdown (should have been two). Gabbert was better than expected in his first start, but didn't see a defense like Jacksonville.
The Cardinals will win if: They force Jacksonville to turn the ball over. The Jaguars struggled on offense last week in Cleveland. If not for a 5-1 giveaway-takeaway ratio, they could've lost the game.
As Ballou sees it:24-13, Jacksonville. The Jags win their fifth in a row as they have a balanced offense in Arizona. The improved special teams play also has a big day.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They keep playing defense as they are. Arizona is on its third quarterback in Gabbert. That is a tough task for any offense – even if it has a future Hall of Famer in wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals will win if: Their defense can keep the Jaguars off balance, and force negative plays and turnovers. Arizona has two excellent safeties in Tyrann Mathieu and the rookie Budda Baker, excellent players that are blitzing and living around the line of scrimmage.
As Lageman sees it:This will be a tough game that the Jaguars will find a way to win. The Jaguars have had trouble finding points as an offense, and will need their defense and special teams to give them a boost again.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if:They hit three or more big plays on offense. The last few weeks the run game has been controlled by the opposition for the most part. The Jags could use some explosive plays to soften up those eight-man fronts. I think Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has been throwing the deep ball well, and with three speed receivers he should take some chances Sunday.
The Cardinals will win if:They turn the Jaguars over two or more times and find a way to slow down - not stop - this opportunistic defense. Gabbert will need help to defeat this Jags defense, and Arizona will need one of its cleanest and best games of season to do it.
As Martineau sees it:The Jaguars feel like nobody can beat them right now. I have a hard time finding ways Gabbert beats his former team. If Arizona wins, it will ride its own strong defense and take advantage of a mistake-riddled game by the Jags. I think the Jags win their fifth consecutive game, 27-16.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if:The defense forces four sacks and two turnovers. Winning or losing for the Jaguars seems to depend on the level play of the defense right now. Fortunately for the Jaguars, that level is phenomenally high. If the Jaguars get Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson stopped on early downs, then that should create the third-down pass rushing opportunities needed to force turnovers.
The Cardinals will win if: Peterson rushes for more than 100 yards. The Cardinals' offense in recent weeks has risen and fallen with his effectiveness. If the Jaguars get him stopped this becomes a difficult matchup for Arizona.
As Oehser sees it:The Jaguars' pass rush makes this a difficult matchup for Arizona. Jacksonville is all about pressure defensively, and if the Jaguars get into chaos-creating mode it will be hard for Gabbert and a struggling offensive line to turn momentum. This feels like it will be a close game until the Jaguars find a way for a game-turning turnover in the second half.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They stick to their formula. Gabbert is starting at quarterback for Arizona, running back David Johnson and his 2,100 yards and 20 touchdowns are on injured reserve and the offensive line is down two starters. The Jaguars should be able to control the line of scrimmage, get in Gabbert's face and create turnovers and opportunities for the offense. If the Jaguars can run against Cleveland in the snow, they should be able to run on a perfect day against Arizona.
The Cardinals will win if: If they can get a big game from Gabbert. He threw a career-high three touchdowns last Sunday against the Texans and completed 65 percent of his passes. That's a solid day for the much-maligned former first-round pick. Still, his two interceptions cost the Cardinals dearly. If Gabbert has time in the pocket and can avoid the turnovers, he can find Fitzgerald and JJ Nelson for big plays down the field. If Gabbert has a big day, the Cardinals have the playmakers to take advantage.
As Sexton sees it:The Jaguars' defense will be too much for Gabbert. The Jaguars are a defense playing at an insanely high level right now – and even though Gabbert had a pretty good day in Houston, the Cardinals are a long way from where they would be with Carson Palmer and Johnson on the field. The Jags should chase Gabbert out of the pocket and hit him relentlessly, forcing bad throws and poor decisions. The Cards have big-time playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they're not a hot team right now, haven't been all season and the Jaguars should stay on top of the AFC South with a fifth consecutive win.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if:The defense gets a couple of takeaways. Of the three takeaways last week, two led to 10 offensive points and another led to a defensive score. The Jaguars' defense is playing with sky-high confidence right now, but this is not the Cleveland Browns offense … Fitzgerald and running back Adrian Peterson are two major reasons.
The Cardinals will win if:Gabbert gets an early lead. I never thought I'd type those words, but there they are. This Jaguars offense has not proven the ability to rally from two possessions down this year – yet.
As Shadrick sees it:Defensive end Calais Campbell has made an immeasurable impact on the Jaguars' defense, but this game against his old team is personal for him. In addition, the Jags defense will want to shut down two possible future Hall-of-Fame players in Peterson and Fitzgerald. Can Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette continue to grind out yards on an ankle that isn't 100 percent? Wake up from your turkey nap: the surging Jags should be 8-3 after this game.