JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2020 season, ten Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Bucky Brooks, 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 Detroit Lions at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They can create some pressure on Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, who has been inconsistent this season. Stafford has a bunch of weapons; if he can sit in the pocket, he will have a big day. If the Jaguars are going to win, they're going to need a much better effort by the defensive line and some surprise blitzes by defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Even though Detroit has three solid backs, the Lions' game plan will be to throw at the Jaguars.
The Lions will win it: They get an early lead on the road. The Jaguars have gone 13 consecutive games without a touchdown on their first drive. It is almost expected Detroit will have a first-quarter lead. If the Lions can make Jacksonville one-dimensional, therefore taking away the fact that they are the worst rushing defense in the NFL, it will force Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II to throw more than 40 times. Jacksonville is 0-6 when he throws 40 or more times. That's the blueprint on how to beat Jacksonville.
As Ballou sees it: Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia comes in facing a win-today-or-you're-out-of-a-job situation. The Lions are also coming off a bye. They are better than their record indicates, as they have lost three double-digit leads. I believe the Lions will play hard for their coach. Detroit will win by a touchdown.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: They run early and often, then keep running it. For the third consecutive week, they are facing one of the NFL's worst rush defenses; the Lions are dead last, giving up 170 yards a game. The game must go through the offensive line and rookie running back James Robinson. This will also keep the defense on the sideline and give the Jaguars a better chance of keeping the game close.
The Lions will win if: They stop the run, which they haven't been able to do, and take advantage of a Jaguars defense that has allowed 30 or more points in four consecutive losses. Stafford is a dangerous quarterback who can hurt defenses when he has time, but he has been loose with the ball when under pressure. The Jaguars have had issues pressuring the quarterback. If that holds true Sunday, Stafford will be licking his chops.
As Boselli sees it: Look for Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to stick to the run this week against the NFL's worst rush defense. Robinson will have his biggest day on the ground as a pro, being the key driver of the Jaguars dominating the time of possession and sneaking out a 24-21 victory late.
Bucky Brooks, NFL Network analyst
The Jaguars will win if: Jay Gruden is able to stick with the running game for four quarters. The Jaguars are a much better offense when the ground game is effective and Minshew is on a tight pitch count that features 30 or fewer pass attempts. The "less is more approach" will drive fantasy footballers crazy, but it is an effective way to control the tempo and limited the defense's exposure. In addition, the run-first premise lures extra defenders near the line of scrimmage and create favorable one-on-one opportunities for receivers on the outside.
*The Lions will win if: *Matt Patricia is able to dictate the terms and force Gardner Minshew to win the game as a thrower. The Lions have successfully defended opponents with more zone-based coverages the past few games and getting more eyes on the quarterback could lead to more interceptions on tips and overthrows. The key to putting the game on No.15's shoulders is the containment of the running game. If the Lions are able to stop Robinson early, the pressure builds for the Jaguars to put the ball in the air to chase points. With the Lions' offense capable of scoring at will if Matthew Stafford gets hot, the key to the game is all about the Jaguars' offensive success.
*As Brooks see it: *
This is the week for the Jaguars to get back into the win column. The team's top three defenders return to action and boost a scrappy defense that's gradually improving. With Myles Jack and CJ Henderson back on the field, and Josh Allen if he is available, the Jaguars have enough playmakers to go toe-to-toe with the Lions' offense. If Minshew and Co. can take care of the ball and avoid the big mistakes that gift points to the opponents, the Jaguars should be able to chalk up win No. 2 on Sunday.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win: If they go back to running a bit more and take advantage of Robinson, one of the best under-the-radar finds in team history. Robinson is really good and leaning on him can shorten the game, aiding both the offense and defense. The Jags also must harass Stafford, get him off the spot and force him to throw off schedule.
The Lions will win if: If they take away Robinson and make the Jaguars one-dimensional. They must protect Stafford. And they must finish; Detroit has blown leads early in the season.
As Frangie sees it: Both these teams are desperately looking for a pick-me-up and both believe the other is the perfect tonic. These teams are relatively even. I see another fourth-quarter game in which one team will make one more play than the other.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They can force a couple turnovers on defense and keep Stafford from getting in a groove. The Lions have some very good weapons on offense with wide receiver Kenny Golladay, tight end T.J. Hockenson, wide receiver Danny Amendola, running back Adrian Peterson and running back D'Andre Swift. Stafford's feet have been much talked about in Detroit as they have been unsettled. They need to remain this way for the Jaguars to win.
The Lions will win if: They can stop the Jaguars' run game from having an impact. Detroit has the honor this week of being the NFL's worst run defense and will be ready for a concerted effort by the Jaguars to run. The Lions also must perform better late in games; they have relinquished leads in nearly every game this year.
As Lageman sees it: This is a must-win game for both franchises from a mindset perspective. Patricia is in his third season as the Lions' head coach and has yet to surpass his predecessor's success. The Lions have the benefit of coming off a bye and being in relatively good health. The Jaguars have the benefit of playing at home and are trying to earn positive reinforcement for their young efforts. Health is a concern for the Jaguars and the schedule is getting ready to get much more difficult.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: Minshew throws it fewer than 35 times. This is becoming a narrative this week in Jacksonville – as well it should. The Jaguars are playing teams that don't stop the run well, but they are not running enough. I think the Jaguars will establish Robinson and the offensive line enough to balance the pass this week. If they do it successfully, there will be no need to throw too many times.
The Lions will if: They win the red zone. The Jaguars are leaving a ton of scoring chances on the field. Turnovers win the day in the NFL, but so does the red zone. If the Lions outduel the Jaguars in the red area, they will win.
As Martineau sees it: I'm starting to hate myself. I've picked against the Jaguars three of five times this season. I think I feel good about this week or I've talked myself into it; I'm not sure which. The Jags are playing hard and I think they are sick of the negative noise. The slide will end Sunday with a 27-23 victory over Detroit.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They take advantage of opportunities, and if they can establish the run. The Jaguars have been one of the NFL's better red-zone teams this season but failed to score on two of their four possessions inside the Houston Texans' 20-yard line last week. They can't win if they miss such opportunities.
The Lions will win if: They hold Robinson under 50 yards. The Lions rank last in the NFL in run defense. If they limit Robinson – or if the Jaguars stay away from using the rookie as they have the last two weeks – the Lions will have a big edge.
As Oehser sees it: This is a tough matchup for the Jaguars – because all games are tough matchups for the Jaguars right now. The offense is struggling to convert big opportunities at critical times and the pass rush and secondary are struggling to get teams off the field. If the Jaguars establish the run and keep Minshew from having to throw more than 40 times, they will win. They have a good chance to do just that.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win: If they run 25 times or more – which is another way of saying they're playing a controlled game, letting Minshew do what he does best, utilize play action and keep the defense off balance.
The Lions will win if: They can force Minshew to throw 40 times or more. He has done it four consecutive games and the Jaguars are 0-4. He can't do it by himself. If you're asking him to throw that much, it means he has to.
As Sexton sees it: The Jaguars are due to play their kind of game. They can run the ball, but they haven't. They can protect the quarterback and they have. If they can do both, they're a tough team to beat because they're led by a tough guy at quarterback who will fight for 60 minutes and has shown he can find a way to win. I think after all the criticism this week of the quarterback and the play-calling that Head Coach Doug Marrone will keep it simple and let his team play its best brand of football.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They cash in on most of their chances deep in opponent territory. Last week, drives that reached the Houston 21-, six- and eight-yard lines ended without points. That's unacceptable. A couple of those were missed field goals by a now-former kicker. But, as Minshew said, if the offense had executed better it would not have come down to those kicks. The Jags have been one of the best red-zone teams in the NFL; chances down there are valuable. Most teams – especially this team – cannot afford to miss those opportunities.
The Lions will win if: They protect the football. The Jaguars' defense had two takeaways last week, and that gave the Jaguars some short fields to work with and kept the game tight. In two meetings, Stafford never has thrown a pick against the Jaguars – but he never has thrown a touchdown pass against them, either. He won both meetings – in 2012 and 2016 – when the Lions won the turnover battle 2-0 and 3-2, respectively.
As Shadrick sees it: How is the Jaguars' rushing offense ranked 26th in the league? They haven't gone to that well enough somehow, especially when three of the Jaguars' previous five opponents are in the bottom four in the league in rush defense. The Lions are the worst run defense in the NFL through five weeks of play (four games for Lions). The Jags got away from the run last week after some early success. Expect a heavier dose of Robinson and the running game this week; it will also keep Stafford on the sideline sipping Gatorade.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They stay consistent to the run. Gruden took the blame for not using Robinson as much as he would have liked against the Texans. The Lions' defense has given up on average 170 yards per game on the ground. It's the third week in a row the Jaguars have faced the worst run defense in the league. The Jaguars must use that to their advantage.
The Lions will win if: They make Minshew one-dimensional. The Lions will try to force Minshew to throw in tight spaces and they will try to take away threats such as wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. down the sidelines. This is the game in which Minshew needs to take advantage of opportunities and score when it is close. Once again, he is the storyline, and all eyes are on him to play better than he did last week.
As Sullivan sees it: The Jaguars' offense will score fast and gain momentum. The Jaguars need to get a lead and play with it. The defense will give up points to the likes Stafford and Amendola, that's just the way it is. It's on the offense to keep up, play efficiently and take advantage of opportunities. After listening to Gruden this week, I think the Jaguars offense will be more balanced and Jacksonville will get its second victory of the season this week.