Forget the playoffs for a moment. Let us talk about the upcoming game against the Jaguars. I understand that with the win streak, everyone is engulfed with the playoff mathematical mumbo jumbo a female MIT student would envy. This is fine, but perusing this board at least 17 times a day, I have noticed that there is a new thread about the playoffs each time I am on. The threads, usually entitled "Miami can still make the playoffs!", are getting (to put it nicely) older than a pair of granny pants recycled at your local garage sale.
Recap of game vs Buffalo:
The Jaguars are coming off an embarrassing performance against a Buffalo squad that features former #1 draft pick J.P. Losman under center. Losman abused the Jags broken secondary with short passes all day. He initially picked on rookie Dee Webb who started because starter Brian Williams was out with a hamstring. Terry Cousin, the backup, was also out with a groin. Scott Starks eventually replaced Webb because of his inconsistent play. Losman finished with an efficient 21 of 28 for a paltry 169 yards; no touchdowns and one INT. The Bills' special teams play along with a long pass interference call on Jacksonville catupulted them to a win.
Despite throwing two TDs with no INTs, David Garrard only passed for 116 yards. He did not have to do much with the Jags runningback tandem running for a stout 207 yards. What killed the Jags were the penalties; 10 in all for 108 yards. The defense, #3 overall, did not play up to par. The Jags could not convert any turnovers from the 3 fumbles by the Bills. With less than 30 seconds left on the clock, the Bills made a field goal in the last seconds to win the game 27-24.
Jacksonville Team Analysis
David Garrard is not a bad quarterback, but he will not put up Peyton Manning-like numbers. One thing he can do is run the ball effectively. Of his 28 rushes this year, nearly half have been for 1st downs. His completion percentage is less than stellar at 56.7%. In his defense, his receivers (with the exception of Ernest Wilford) have been dropping passes like I drop turds, often and with "some stank on it". Garrard throws a good ball, but his WRs cannot get a grip. Of the five games he has started, three of them he did not throw a TD.
Their WR corps has the talent to be unmatched if not amazing. Unfortunately, with their recent poor play, they have looked like a bunch of last-picked sandlots. This has played a number on their psyche. They are a tall set, with Matt Jones touching the sky at a solid six-foot-six.
Runningbacks Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have probably been the best 1-2 tandem in the league. Taylor is currently 10th in the NFL with 876 rushing yards at 4.5 ypc. Jones-Drew, solidly packed at 5'6" and 214 pounds, offers a good change of pace with both speed and power. He is averaging 5.0 ypc. Although Jones-Drew does not have as many carries or yards as Taylor, he leads the team in not only rushing TDs, but overall TDs, with eight. This guy is scary in the flats and can break for the big one at any time. Jones-Drew is also the main kickoff returner, averaging a very good 24.8 yards on returns.
Jacksonville's defense currently ranks 3rd overall in the NFL. They do not make many penalties, ranking 3rd in the league with 56. They play solidly in all aspects, but with recent injuries to key players (especially in the secondary), they can be exposed. They do, however, rank 4th overall with 15 INTs. Jacksonville does not create many turnovers in the form of fumbles. Of the possible nine, they have only recovered three. They only allow 34.4% of 3rd down conversions, currently fifth in the league. Miami is a shade better allowing only 33.8%. They do not allow opposing offenses much time on the field, either. They go in, do their job, and get to the bench.
MLB Mike Peterson is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. He has battled through injuries almost his entire career. This is a big blow for the Jags because he is a staple in their D. I believe rookie Clint Ingram has replaced him and has done a good job. Daryl Smith is a very good LB, but is only in his 3rd year. This LB corps is young but talented.
Their defensive line is touted as one of the best in the NFL anchored by middleman John Henderson. Third-year man Bobby McCray is having a very good year, leading the team with seven sacks. This line is very tough against the run, allowing a mere 3.5 YPC.
The weakest part of the defense in the secondary (due to injuries). Donovin Darius is out with a broken leg. CB Brian Williams did not play against Buffalo because of a hamstring. Backup CB Terry Cousin could not fill in last game because of a groin. This makes them thin at the moment, leaving them wide open for long gains in the air. They were thoroughly exposed against Buffalo. Jack Del Rio is a very good coach and should have them prepared against Miami.
What can Miami do?
Expose the secondary. Chris Chambers needs to step up his game LAST WEEK! Joey Harrington has been efficient, and barring the Lions game, unspectacular. The quick hits are the key. IMO, Miami can bring this defense to its knees if they go with the the no-huddle shotgun that worked like magic against the Minnesota Vikings. With Ronnie Brown out, Miami will likely have more passing plays. I do not see backups Sammy Morris and Travis Minor doing much against their stingy run D. Joey Harrington MUST NOT make errant throws! He had a very good game against the Kitties, but still made a cruddy INT within scoring range. He cannot make those same mistakes against this D. They're secondary is battered, but not quite cooked.
Miami's D is evenly matched with theirs. This defense has been playing at a very high level as of late, probably as good as any in the past month. Turnovers (durr...) will win this ballgame. Gerrard is only scary when he is on the run. He can make all of the throws, but his WRs have not been catching well. I believe Del Rio will try to throw downfield early only because he knows Miami's run D is very good. If this succeeds and the Jags get an early lead, a big helping of Taylor and Jones-Drew will be on the plate. This strategy could be a good thing for Miami, though, if they can get INTs. Garrard has already had a 4 INT game this year. He did not throw a TD in that particular game. He does not throw many. As stated earlier, he has had more games without a TD toss than with. If Miami gives up a two score lead early, I am not entirely confident that Joey Harrington can bring them back. Although Jacksonville is traveling right down the street, they have a 1-4 road record. The fans at the stadium will be a big help.
All-in-all, this should be a very good game. I think if Miami can establish the pass and get an early lead, they win this. The same goes for Jacksonville. I see a close one, with the home-field advantage winning this one.
Miami - 23 , Jacksonville - 20