JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2019 season, nine Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They score in the first half. This has been a problem all year for the Jaguars. Atlanta is suspect on defense and Jacksonville needs to attack it early.
The Falcons will win if: They keep feeding the ball to wide receiver Julio Jones, which they did 22 times last week in San Francisco. The Falcons have struggled to run, so this is going to be their point of attack.
As Ballou sees it: Both clubs are fighting to save their coaches' job. It will be interesting to see how hard these teams play. Also, will Jacksonville play looser now that former Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin is gone?
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: They shorten the game by running and converting on third down – and defensively, if they keep the Falcons off schedule on down and distance. The Falcons are explosive offensively and the Jaguars will not be able to win a shootout. The Jaguars' offense must control the ball and stay on the field. An advantage the Jaguars have in this game is front four rushing the passer against the Falcons' average, young offensive line (the right side has two rookie starters). If they can keep the Falcons in obvious passing situations, they should be able to get after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
The Falcons will win if: They get the run game going with running back Devonta Freeman, which will slow down the Jaguars pass rush and allow Ryan comfort in the pocket. The matchup of Jones against any of the Jaguars' defensive backs obviously favors the Falcons, and if Ryan gets in a rhythm it will be a long day for the Jaguars. Defensively, the Falcons have played better lately. To keep this up, they must slow running back Leonard Fournette and keep the Jaguars one-dimensional.
As Boselli sees it: The Jaguars have positive momentum after a big victory in Oakland. I think they will ride that wave and get off to a fast start for the first time in a long time. This will get the Falcons playing catchup for most of the game, which will allow the Jaguars to unleash their pass rush. It has been a long time for back-to-back road wins, but it will happen this week: Jaguars, 24-21.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They finally get some offense going in the first half. That has been such a problem. They need to finish a drive early in the game. They also need to get to Ryan. Atlanta doesn't run the ball well and has lost wide receiver Calvin Ridley. But Ryan to Jones is still a terrific combo, so the Jags have to regain that Sacksonville feel of a week ago. They must score early and get to Ryan.
The Falcons will win if: They stuff jaguars running back Leonard Fournette and force quarterback Gardner Minshew II to pass when they want him to, not when he wants to. Fournette has been terrific, but teams that stop him tend to play well against Jacksonville.
As Frangie sees it: I get the sense the Jaguars will play a bit looser. This has been another tumultuous week, but you get the sense it is a relaxed group. But the Falcons are playing better of late. After starting 1-7, they have won four of the last six. And they are at home. This should be a close one, but will be tough for the Jags.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win: If they can slow a potent Falcons offense that has one of the best wide receivers in Jones. He is the total package: size, speed, and strength. Ryan is a veteran quarterback that has seen everything, so his rhythm must be disrupted by the Jags' pass rush against a questionable Falcons offensive line.
The Falcons will win: If they can make the Jaguars' offense play a whole game like they have played the first halves for the last month and a half. The Jaguars have managed 19 points in the first halves of the last six games. If the Falcons continue that trend and scores like they have recently, it will be tough for the Jaguars to keep up.
As Lageman sees it: This is a game with plenty of motivation for both sides to play well. Both coaching staffs and players are auditioning for the future. The Falcons have been playing better recently, winning four of their last six games – with two of those victories over playoff-bound New Orleans and San Francisco. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and linebacker/defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. will be a handful for the Jaguars' offensive line. Ends Yannick Ngakoue, Josh Allen, and Calais Campbell will need to be the bigger handful and have monster games for the Jaguars to find a way to win.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They continue their play from the fourth quarter last week. The offense moved the football and the defense had its best half in two months. It's unlikely the Jaguars will shut out this Atlanta offense, so I think the focus should be on quarterback Gardner Minshew II and the offense. It will take at least 27 points to win this one.
The Falcons will win if: They can expose the Jaguars defense for big plays. That has been the problem spot in this defense, and they limited the Raiders in this area last week. Atlanta has a lot of talent on offense so this could be a track meet. If Atlanta steals a possession or two with a turnover, they will win.
As Martineau sees it: I think the Falcons will win. It is a tossup who has been more disappointing this season, but the Falcons have showed signs of life lately. I think Atlanta will win, 27-23.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They start quickly and finish drives. The Jaguars have scored 19 first-half points in the last six games, and just one first-half touchdown during that span. They overcame a three-point first half to win in Oakland last week. That formula won't work against the Falcons' offense.
The Falcons will win if: They rush the passer and play defense as well as they have the last six weeks. Don't be deceived by the Falcons' record. They're 4-2 over the last six games and have played at a higher level defensively than in the first half of the season.
As Oehser sees it: The Jaguars must play their best game of the season to win Sunday – and they must play far better than they have in the last six games. They also must play far better than they did in Oakland last week. Minshew must have his best game. The guess here is he will.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can stop Freeman with six defenders in the box. That will allow defensive coordinator Todd Wash and Co. to attack the problem of Jones. Raiders tight end Darren Waller was unstoppable in the Jaguars secondary last Sunday. What damage can the best wide receiver in the game do? The Jaguars must stop Freeman and find a way to take away Jones to keep the game tight and see if the rookie quarterback can do it again.
The Falcons will win if: They can score four touchdowns in the first half instead of a touchdown and three field goals. The Jaguars had a chance for the come-from-behind victory last week because the Raiders settled for field goals. If the Falcons find the end zone, it will be too much to expect a Jaguars offense scoring 17 points per game to come from behind in Atlanta.
As Sexton sees it: This is a game the Jaguars could win. I was impressed with the way the Jaguars defense rebounded last week and Minshew came through when it counted. Can they do it again against a team that has won four of their last six games – and that beat the best team in the NFC (the San Francisco 49ers) at their place last week? I think the Jaguars will keep it close, but ultimately fall short.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They can find something positive on offense early and get a game-controlling lead. Letting the pass-rush group get to Ryan is the best way for this Jaguars team to win.
The Falcons will win if: Jones has a monster day. This will be the focus of the Jaguars defense this week. Even then, a good defensive plan against Jones is sometimes not good enough because of his ability to make spectacular catches in tight windows. He is difficult to double-team, as he moves all over the formation. When you double him, just don't forget about tight end Austin Hooper, either.
As Shadrick sees it: There has been plenty to distract this team this week, and there are plenty of questions for the future of the team after the next two games. This is a tough matchup, because the Falcons can move the ball and score with All-Pro-caliber players. This isn't impossible, but it's certainly a challenge.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They can score early. The Jags have been consistently playing from behind at halftime for weeks. Minshew and the offense have had issues with red-zone production, especially early in games. Jacksonville cannot settle for field goals Sunday. If the Jaguars can score early, they have a chance.
The Falcons will win if: Their offense establishes a quick lead. As much as the Jaguars' offense must score quickly, the defense must control Ryan and the Falcons' offense – particularly in the first half. The Jaguars must to keep this game manageable. The defense must contain Jones and minimize the run game to keep the game close.
As Sullivan sees it: This is a game the Jaguars can win. The Falcons have played inconsistent this season and are coming off a huge victory last week over the 49ers. Their running game isn't what it used to be, but Minshew must get past a very good Atlanta defense. If the Jaguars play a complete game, they will win Sunday.