When Buffalo Faces Jacksonville On Sunday, A Combined 28 Seasons Without A Playoff Appearance Will Grace EverBank Field: What To Watch
Jacksonville, FL — The Jaguars (10-6) couldn’t have asked for a better matchup in the Buffalo Bills (9-7), for their first playoff appearance since 2007. The Bills needed some help to get into the post-season and will be a tough out, as Jags head coach Doug Marrone faces his former team.
Both teams overachieved this season, reaching the postseason after long playoff droughts. Ten years for Jacksonville and 18 years for the Bills.
The quarterback position will be watched heavily on Sunday. The Jags and Bills have big decisions to make on their respective signal callers after the season.
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles has had a solid year, but coming into the playoffs with old habits, turnovers.
Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor was benched during the season in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman against the Chargers. Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half, Taylor got his job back.
These teams are built similarly, first-year head coaches, strong running games, tough defenses, sporadic quarterbacks, and fan bases that are hungry for success.
As Buffalo and Jacksonville enter the uncharted territory called the playoffs, it will come down to execution, turnovers, and grit at EverBank Field.
Marrone said running back Leonard Fournette is as healthy as he has been all season. This is great news, the rookie’s production had started to slide. Just 117 yards for his last two games. Jacksonville will lean on him to limit mistakes by Bortles.
Jacksonville hopes to get leading receiver Marquise Lee back due to an ankle injury; he is questionable. Bortles has missed Lee over the past couple of weeks, relying on a trio of rookie receivers. It’s all hands on deck, expect Lee to play.
Bills running back LeSean McCoy is expected to play Sunday. McCoy was carted off the field last week vs. Miami due to an ankle injury.
Mistake Free Football
Coming into the 2017 season, no one had more turnovers than Bortles (63). In 2017, under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Bortles has had his best season as a professional.
A career-low 13 interceptions have the Jaguars in position for a Super Bowl run. However, five of those interceptions have come in the past two games. Jacksonville is 8-0 this season when Bortles does not turn the ball over.
Taylor historically takes care of the football. Hence, only 18 interceptions since becoming a full-time starter 2015.
Jacksonville is second in NFL in takeaways with 33, including 21 interceptions. The Jags will look to take advantage of the Bills’ sub-par receivers and force Taylor into mistakes.
Great Matchup For Jacksonville
The Jaguars could not be any happier in facing the Bills Sunday. Buffalo has the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense (302.6 yds/gm), 31st-ranked pass offense (176.6 yds/gm), scoring just 18.9 points per contest.
The Bills run the ball very well with 126.1 yards per game. But McCoy is hobbled, and Jacksonville will load the box, making Taylor throw against their stout secondary.
Look for Jacksonville to get the run game going early with Fournette, as the Bills give up 124.6 yards on the ground per matchup.
“He’s one of those guys, he wants it,” Hackett said. “He’s a competitive guy. He wants the ball and it’s exciting.”
Jacksonville’s defense is one of the top units in the NFL. Taylor will have his hands full, as the Jags give up 170 yards through the air will getting after opposing quarterbacks for 55 sacks.
Most noteworthy, they can disrupt the backfield with their front four, and play excellent coverage on the backend.
It is important that Jacksonville isn’t too aggressive, Taylor is extremely mobile and will use the Jags’ pass rush against them. Also, first down will be key; if Buffalo can get 5-6 yards on first down, it opens up the playbook for third and short where Taylor flourishes.
Prediction: Jacksonville’s defense will be too much for Buffalo. In addition, Fournette will have 25 plus carries, controlling time of possession as Bortles looks to find his mid-season form.
Jacksonville 27 – Buffalo 13