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 Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They can run. Carolina is No. 1 in the NFL in sacks, quarterback hits and fewest passing yards allowed. Jacksonville needs to shorten the game by getting it done on the ground.
The Panthers will win if: They create mismatches for running back Christian McCaffrey, who also leads Carolina in receptions. The Panthers will do their best to get him the ball in one-on-one situations with linebackers.
As Ballou sees it: This will be Jacksonville’s toughest game before the bye. Carolina is one of the best defenses in football. I can’t see the Panthers losing a third consecutive game at home.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: They take away McCaffery and make Allen beat them. The Panthers’ offense runs through McCaffery both win the run and pass. Offensively, the formula for the Jaguars is similar to last week: run the ball and be efficient in the passing game. The Panthers lead the NFL in sacks and have a great pass defense, but they are giving up 130-plus yards on the ground. Another big game from the offensive line and Fournette will go a long way to ensuring a victory.
The Panthers will win: If McCaffery has a big day and the Jaguars can’t get Allen in to long down-and-distance situations. This will put the Jaguars’ defense on its heels, opening the entire playbook for offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Defensively, if the Panthers can win on first down that will put the Jaguars behind the chains and allow the best pass rush in the NFL to come after Minshew.
As Boselli sees it: The Jaguars’ offensive line is healthy and confident and will get after the Panthers’ front seven, leading to another big day for Fournette. This will slow down the pass rush, allowing Minshew Mania to have another good day. While McCaffery will make some plays, the Jaguars’ defense will limit his effectiveness and will get after Allen with a big pass rush. It will be a tight game, but the Jags will hold on for the win, 21-17.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They protect quarterback Gardner Minshew II. That is a big thing; he seems to be hobbling a bit and they need to give him time. If he has it, I expect the magic to continue – but the Panthers really rush the passer well. The Jaguars also must harass Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen. He has a much-discussed propensity to fumble and the Jaguars could continue that trend.
The Panthers will win if: They slow Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. His running in the second half helped take over the game in Denver last week; that is not lost on Carolina. The Panthers want to make Minshew throw when he has to, not when he wants to.
As Frangie sees it: I like this roll the Jaguars are on. This momentum is real and so is Minshew. And they seem to have found their running game. If they play like they have been playing, they will win again.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: Minshew continues his unbelievable level of play and again has the support of a strong running game. The Panthers’ defense presents a formidable task as it is one of the NFL’s best – and the No. 1 pass defense. Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson are one of the league’s best inside linebacker tandems and will be a tough assignment to block.
The Panthers will win if: If McCaffrey controls the tempo. He has averaged 16.7 touches per game in his career, but in the last two weeks with quarterback Cam Newton out with injury he has had 64 touches; he’s clearly even more of a focal point than normal for offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Allen has done a solid job as quarterback over the last two weeks and has yet to throw an interception.
As Lageman sees it: This is a very even matchup. The Jaguars’ linebackers will be tested by McCaffrey, a special player as both a runner and a receiver. Minshew will be tested by a Panthers pass defense that is tops in the league and he must do it slightly banged up from the injury sustained against the Broncos. Fournette will be tested as well by two great linebackers, but he has momentum fresh off a career-best game. I see a close game with special teams making the difference; the Jaguars will find a way to continue the mania.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They sack Allen three or more times. The Jaguars must create pressure on the young quarterback and force him into some mistakes. This is going to be a low-scoring game, so the Jaguars must win the battle of defenses.
The Panthers will win if: If McCaffrey has 120 or more total yards. He leads the NFL in rushing, and tackling will be key against the elusive back. If the Jaguars tackle well, they won't give up the big play and will force Allen to drive down the field to score touchdowns.
As Martineau sees it: The Jags are rolling right now. They are riding Minshew Mania, kicker Josh Lambo's legs and a subtle confidence to victories. I think Jacksonville will win 20-16 for its third consecutive victory.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They protect Minshew – and if the young quarterback avoids mistakes. Minshew has been remarkably error-free in three starts, but the Panthers have a dominant pass rush and a capable, intelligent secondary. They’re very capable of forcing a young quarterback into game-changing mistakes. If Minshew is effective Sunday, he can be effective against anyone.
The Panthers will win if: McCaffrey is McCaffrey. The third-year running back is isn’t just a breakaway, big-play runner; he’s also a player capable of single-handedly turning tricky down-and-distances into back-breaking first downs. Head Coach Doug Marrone talked this week of “populating the ball” around McCaffrey. That’s key. If McCaffrey has a lot of one-on-one situations, this could be a frustrating game for the Jaguars.
As Oehser sees it: This is tough ask for the Jaguars. Minshew has been good, but this is the savviest defense he will have faced – and it might be the best pass rush he has faced all season. The thought here is the Jaguars’ defense must create opportunities and points early for the Jaguars to win. The defense hasn’t done that yet this season, so this feels like one Carolina gets in a close game.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can protect their quarterback. The Broncos put all kinds of pressure on Minshew in Denver last week and the rookie was on the injury report this week because of one of those hits. The Panthers might be better than Denver at getting after the quarterback; they have a league-leading 14 sacks in their last two victories at Arizona and in Houston. The left side of the offensive line has been particularly leaky with tackle Cam Robinson still working his way back into the lineup and guard Andrew Norwell missing pass rushers up the middle the last few games. The Jaguars must be stronger up front if Minshew Mania is going to keep rolling.
The Panthers will win if: They can protect their quarterback. The Panthers have turned their season around with back-to-back victories behind Allen. He has completed 72 percent of his passes, a number remarkably similar to Minshew, and he has four touchdowns and no interceptions in his two starts. If the Carolina offensive line can give him time to find tight end Greg Olsen or McCaffrey in the middle of the field, it could be trouble for the Jaguars’ defense.
As Sexton sees it: This is going to be the Jaguars’ toughest game yet. The Panthers want to run and play to their defense, which is one of the best in the league. The Jaguars want to run the ball behind Fournette to help their rookie quarterback and see if their defense can rebound after a tough day in Denver. I’m tempted to give the Panthers the edge because they’re back at home 2-2 after two home losses to open the season. But Minshew persuades me to pick the Jaguars, who have something building in a locker room that seems unfazed by anything and everything. I think the Jaguars win another close one on the road.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They can limit the production of McCaffrey. He has missed four snaps all season and has accounted for 45 percent of Carolina’s yardage, so where and how he lines up every play and how the Jaguars defend it will be the main storyline. If he breaks out with a huge day, it could be a long day for the Jaguars.
The Panthers will win if: They can plug up Fournette in the running game and force the Jaguars into passing situations. The Panthers’ pass rush and front seven is among the best in football, and they get home. The sack numbers are big, but they have hit the quarterback more than any other team as well. We saw what happened to the Jaguars last week in this area. They must keep Minshew cleaner than they did last week.
As Shadrick sees it: There’s plenty of confidence around the Jaguars right now after two straight victories, but the same can be said in Carolina. This will be tough road game, but there’s a feeling that the Jaguars are never out of a game after last week. The Jaguars must establish the run early and get a lead or stay in the game, give Minshew a chance late and see if the Minshew Magic can continue.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: The defense can handle McCaffrey. He is the NFL’s leading rusher and has only missed four snaps so far this season. It’s too much to ask the Jaguars’ defense to take him out of the game, but the goal should be to hold him to under 100 yards. Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack is in for a big day trying to control McCaffery.
The Panthers will win if: They take advantage of the Jaguars’ offensive line. The Panthers have 14 sacks in the past two weeks, and Sunday will be the toughest test for the Jaguars with Gerald McCoy and Luke Kuechly across the line. The Jaguars’ offensive line will have to clean up their holding penalties from last week and protect Minshew as much as possible.
As Sullivan sees it: If the Jaguars win this week, they are a very good football team. Players have told us all week the Panthers’ defense is one of the best they will see all season. I do not feel confident the Jaguars will win in Carolina in a tough environment against a very good defense. If they prove me wrong, I am a firm believer the winning streak will not end soon. This game is the toughest game on the Jaguars’ schedule until they play Houston in London November 3.