JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2021 season, 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 Arizona Cardinals at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They run. They also must slow Cardinals defensive linemen Chandler Jones and JJ Watt off the edge or they're just going to keep getting what they're getting. Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence will get better and he will make fewer mistakes, but without a running game he can depend on it's an uphill battle every Sunday.
The Cardinals will win if: They hit the deep ball. Their receivers are sensational and DeAndre Hopkins might be the best deep ball wide receiver in the game today. His blend of size, speed and instincts is rare – and now that they have AJ Green on the other side to go with Christian Kirk in the middle, the Cardinals can dictate coverage. The Jaguars have struggled to make enough plays down the field, which gives Arizona a distinct target for which to shoot.
As Sexton sees it: This is a matchup problem for the Jaguars. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is the problem. If you blitz him, you leave defensive backs singled up on perhaps the best receiving corps in the NFL; if you leave him alone, the threat of him taking off and running against a four- or five-man front is always present. Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen has to pick his spots – and the Jaguars' blitzers must get home for a chance to create a game-changing play, either an interception or a sack to force a punt. I just don't know if we've seen enough to believe they can handle an offense that is as explosive as this one in only the third week of the season.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They find consistency offensively. This must start by running effectively throughout the game, something they have been unable to do the first two weeks of the season as game circumstances – and a bit of offensive impatience – has caused the Jaguars to throw 84 times and run just 32. Whatever the reasons, that's not a winning formula with a rookie quarterback.
The Cardinals will win if: Murray can avoid the Jaguars' pass rush and hit big plays. Murray has a tendency to throw interceptions at times. He also has a tendency to overcome those interceptions with big plays, so even forcing turnovers won't guarantee a Jaguars victory. The Jaguars' defense must get home with the pass rush, force a fumble or two and – most importantly – maintain coverage downfield when Murray gets outside the pocket. Easier written than done.
As Oehser sees it: This is the Jaguars' toughest matchup of the season to date. Lawrence is still in the learning phase early in his career, and the Cardinals are an ascending team that believes it can make the postseason – and is playing well offensively early in the season. Keeping pace with this Arizona offense – and containing the mobile, dynamic Murray – is a big ask. Maybe too big.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They win the turnover battle and shut down a Cardinals running game and then find a way to corral one of the NFL's most exciting young quarterbacks. That's a lot of "ands" but it's absolutely possible. Arizona has a high-scoring offense led by Murray, and the Jaguars' offense needs to take a major step forward to keep pace. The Jaguars' offense needs to find a balance and efficiency conducive to Lawrence's success.
The Cardinals will win if: Chase Edmonds and James Conner control the tempo of the game on the ground. Edmonds is a little-known back but is explosive and capable of making people miss. Any defensive coordinator would have a dilemma with Murray, but if a potent running game exists, that dilemma will become an impossibility – especially with the weapons Murray has to throw to at wide receiver. Rookie Rondale Moore is wicked quick, Hopkins is Hopkins, Kirk can make big plays and Green might still have some juice.
As Lageman sees it: This is a monster challenge for the Jaguars. They are going through typical rookie growing pains with Lawrence and there is no quick fix with that. He is a great talent and I believe he will be great, but greatness takes time. The coaching staff must find offensive balance while the learning curve is at its steepest. And the entire team must be better and play better. Murray will stress the Jaguars' defense with his ability to run and extend plays. But Murray will also throw you the ball at times and those opportunities must be intercepted by the defense to help a young quarterback.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They force three turnovers or more. This is a tall task because the Jaguars have yet to force one turnover, but they say they come in bunches. If that happens, the Jaguars can get some short fields, some easy points and steal a victory over a good team.
The Cardinals will win if: They jump on top early. During this 17-game losing streak, the Jaguars have had to play catchup – and when the Jags have to play catchup, they can't use the run game like they want. A fast early start for the Cardinals will put more pressure on Lawrence and take away Jaguars running back James Robinson. That would be a formula for the Cardinals to win.
As Martineau sees it: This is one of those games in which the Jaguars don't match up well even if they were playing well. I have Arizona in this game, but I think the Jaguars will surprise people and make it closer than many think. There's too much talent on the other sideline at the end of the day, but Lawrence will have his best game yet in a 34-27 loss.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They capitalize on the few mistakes the Cardinals will give them. Murray has thrown three interceptions in two weeks. The Jaguars' secondary has had multiple chances to get a turnover and flip momentum so far this season, but the unit has not come down with the catch. This is the week the unit must make the play. The Jaguars will need some breaks to go their way to upset a team that on paper is just plain better than them.
The Cardinals will win if: They get a lead early. The Jaguars are not good enough right now to play back from a big deficit; they need momentum in front of a home crowd. The Cardinals have so many offensive weapons, the Jaguars secondary cannot play hero ball and must to stick to their assignments. With the amount of targets Murray has, the Jaguars' secondary needs to be on their A game – and then some.
As Sullivan sees it: This is one of the Jaguars' toughest matchups of the season. The Cardinals are very much a team on the rise and a great example to the Jaguars of what you can become when you build around your rookie quarterback. The Cardinals will win because they have a much more talented roster. Everything must go right for the Jaguars to pull off the upset, but crazier things have happened.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They find more balance on offense. Which means they must run more – and maybe run first. That isn't the way of the world in the NFL these days, but rookie quarterbacks all across the league are struggling. They also should build in some short, easy throws – planned checkdowns of sorts – to help the offense gain some confidence. Time of possession is so important in this game.
The Cardinals will win if: They strike fast, if Murray goes crazy early on and they get the Jaguars struggling with confidence. The first quarter in this game is critical. Arizona will be looking for an early knockout punch, the Jags will be hoping to keep it competitive into the second half and hopefully to get the crowd involved as they do.
As Frangie sees it: This is a tough matchup. Arizona goes up and down the field offensively; the Cardinals are electric. Jacksonville has had trouble finding offensive rhythm. But the Jaguars played with a toughness on defense last week, keeping it close well into the second half. They have to do that again, get the offense going a bit and try to win it in the fourth quarter.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: They have explosive plays on both offense and defense. They are still haven't created a turnover on defense and this must change if they want to win. The defense must give Lawrence a couple extra drives and a short field or two. Offensively, they need at least four-to-five 20-plus-yard big plays to score enough to keep pace with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals will win if: The Jaguars cannot keep Murray in the pocket and limit off-schedule plays. Murray will make it a long day for a Jaguars' defense if they are chasing him all over the field.
As Boselli sees it: This a tough game for the Jaguars' defense. Murray is one of the most elusive and explosive quarterbacks in the NFL, and the Jaguars have struggled the first two weeks shutting down the opponents' passing attack. I do think that Lawrence will have his best day as a Jaguar but it won't be enough. The Jaguars will lose a high-scoring game, 38-24.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They make big plays. Head Coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that the Jaguars need a "spark;" that's when great players make great plays. Jacksonville is minus-five 5 in the turnover/takeaway department. Forcing Murray to make mistakes is how they pull off the upset.
The Cardinals will win if: They succeed throwing downfield. Arizona has weapons everywhere on offense. The Jaguars are hurt in the secondary. This is a bad matchup for any team to play catch up as the Cardinals have the eighth-best pass defense in the NFL.
As Ballou sees it: We see marked improvement today, but it's not enough. Finally the Jaguars are able to run the football and keep the game close. In the end, Arizona has too much talent and improve to 3-0.
J.P. Shadrick, Jaguars senior reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They play most of the game on offense as they did in the opening drive last week when they marched downfield, converted third downs and ended in the end zone with a great throw and catch. After that, they disappeared against the Broncos. This team needs all three phases of the game – offense, defense, special teams – to play in unison to get over the top. Winning the turnover battle for the first time this season could go a long way.
The Cardinals will win if: Murray plays close to his level of the last two weeks. If you thought Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor was tough to corral in Week 1, just wait. Murray gets outside the pocket and then can make powerful, off-schedule throws with velocity and accuracy deep down the field. And if defenders turn around chasing receivers downfield, Murray can do plenty of damage with his legs.
As Shadrick sees it: This is a difficult test in Week 3. The Jaguars are working through some early-season offensive issues, the defense is working on making plays and getting its first takeaway of the season and the kicking game has been far from reliable so far. Working on these issues against a playoff-caliber team like the Cardinals is not ideal. The Cardinals must keep pace in a competitive NFC West, and Murray is doing things few can do at the quarterback position. Are they beatable? Yes, every team is "beatable," but it feels like the Jaguars need a complete game to keep pace.
WEEK 3 · Sun 09/26 · 1:00 PM EDT