The league’s lowest scoring team actually improved by two games last season as the Jacksonville Jaguars went from 2-14 in 2012 to 4-12 in 2013. The Jaguars actually gave up more points in 2013 than they did in the previous season as well. Either way, they were not a good team in 2013. The Jaguars were outgained by more than 1,300 yards.
The Jaguars did end the season on a positive note with a 4-4 record after their bye week, with two wins over Houston and singular wins over the Browns and Titans. The Jaguars also started the season with six future playoff teams in their first eight games, a stretch of the season in which the Jags went 0-8. The other two games were at St. Louis and at Oakland, which are by no means easy games for an East Coast team.
In a quarterback-driven league like the NFL, neither Chad Henne nor Blaine Gabbert is a sufficient option. An aging Maurice Jones-Drew with all of his past injuries doesn’t provide as much help as he once did. Justin Blackmon, a former top-10 pick of the Jaguars, played just four games and was on pace for a great season with 103.8 yards per game.
With yet another high draft pick and a 4-4 stretch to end the season, oddsmakers at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas are expecting a modest improvement from the Jaguars. The win total was posted at 4.5 and the betting market pushed the over juice from -115 to -125. Sportsbook.ag opened the Jaguars at 4.5 with a -170 on the over.
Lines courtesy of CG Technologies:
|4||@ San Diego||+10|
|13||New York Giants||+5.5|
As mentioned above, the Jaguars had a miserable schedule with six playoff teams in the first eight weeks. They also played Indianapolis again to end the season and had a game at Arizona. This season, the Jaguars only face three playoff teams, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Cincinnati. Along with the AFC South, the Jaguars take on the NFC East and the AFC North. They also face San Diego and Miami. Cole Ryan ranks their schedule 29th out of 32 teams.
Even though there’s no line for Week 17, the Jaguars are an underdog every week this upcoming season except for the bye week. Frankly, there’s a chance that the bye week will be -3 against Jacksonville. Not only are the Jags an underdog in every game, but they are at least a four-point underdog in every game but two and see a double-digit spread on six occasions.
Jokes aside, the Jaguars play four out of six on the road to start the season and host Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. That’s a tough stretch to open the year, but the Jaguars did win three of their four games on the road last season. If the Jaguars can get to the bye week at 3-7, an over bet will have slightly more than a puncher’s chance.
Why bet the over?
Gone are the days of Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert. First-round pick Blake Bortles will take the reins as the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars also added Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Storm Johnson, Bortles’s teammate at UCF, to the offense. The influx of skill should bolster the league’s worst offense. The Jaguars were 30th or worse in points per game, yards per game, points per play, yards per play, third down conversion rate, red zone touchdown percentage, point differential, and yard differential. In most of those categories, the Jaguars were dead last. As they say, there’s nowhere to go but up!
By no means was the Jaguars defense good, but the immense pressure placed on it by a completely hapless offense made things worse. The Jaguars added four defensive players in free agency with Ziggy Hood, Chris Clemons, Dakoda Watson, and Red Bryant. Bryant and Clemons were both starters this past season for the Seattle Seahawks defense. Hood is a legitimate player whose talents were improved with the Steelers. These players should make an impact.
Under first-year head coach Gus Bradley, the Jaguars started 0-8 but showed improvement after the bye week and went 4-4 over their last eight games. They averaged a respectable 20 points per game and allowed 23 points per game, which were both substantial improvements over the season as a whole. The defense should improve under Bradley, the orchestrator of the Seahawks defense from 2008-12, and first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has a lot more weapons to work with.
A non-existent pass rush prevented the Jaguars from forcing turnovers and a quarterback capable of putting up a positive TD/INT ratio should lead to a change in turnover margin. The Jaguars probably won’t be on the plus side, but there’s a chance that they are close to even. The mobility of Bortles will also help the Jaguars sack numbers. They allowed 50 last season. A negative turnover differential, a lot of negative plays, and a lack of talent overall hurt the Jaguars a lot. Two of those areas should definitely improve.
Why bet the under?
While Blake Bortles comes with an impressive skill set and a lot of promise, there are no guarantees that he can be an NFL quarterback. Detractors will point to Bortles’s college career at UCF and point out that he rarely played defenses featuring NFL players. Bortles has the size and strength at 6’5”, 232 lbs, but can he make enough NFL throws?
The completely re-tooled Jaguars offense will have a rookie at quarterback, rookies or second-year guys at wide receiver, and carries will be shared by Toby Gerhart and Jordan Todman. While there’s talent in this group, it’s very raw talent and raw talent doesn’t always pan out. Zane Beadles is the lone addition to an offensive line that likely needed some more help.
The schedule is front-heavy for the Jaguars with three road games at Philadelphia, Washington, and San Diego in the first four games. Indianapolis at home is the other game. With a lot of moving parts and a completely new offense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jaguars start 0-4. That would require them to play nearly .500 the rest of the way to cash this win total. The Jaguars also lose a home game with their trip to London. Young teams struggle even more on the road.
Unlike other teams pegged for improvement, the Jaguars didn’t have many close losses. They lost by double digits in 10 of their 12 losses. Given their ranking in a lot of statistics, and the unlikelihood of two wins over Houston, the Jaguars really need to improve to just match last season’s four-win total. Adding another win is a big task.
Pick: Under 4.5 (+145)
It’s hard not to buy the talent that the Jaguars have accumulated. Even marginal gains on offense will make the defense better by association. The AFC South is still a mediocre division and the Colts could even be vulnerable at times. Once the schedule opened up for the Jaguars, they were rather competitive. The Jaguars go from facing six playoff teams down to three and they faced all six in the first eight weeks last season.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and the Henne/Gabbert tandem was atrocious. Even as a rookie, Bortles represents a serious upgrade at that position. He inherits Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders to go along with the two quality draft picks. The offense will still be in the bottom third of the league, but the production will increase given the talent level.
That said, laying -170 at Sportsbook.ag on a win total is a pretty tough thing to do. The Jaguars will certainly pass the eye test, but wins may be a bit more difficult to come by.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.