The Jacksonville Jaguars have the worst home-record since 2012: 9-28. That’s five games worse than the Cleveland Browns. The team is currently .500 at home this season and they have an offense that moves the ball in utter spite of QB Blake Bortles.
Yet, the Los Angeles Rams, who have the No. 1 scoring offense in the league and a solid defense, yet are underdogs in this matchup.
It’s a chess match, if you can believe that. The Rams and the Jaguars, who are either leading or tied for first in their respective divisions. Did you ever think this would happen in the past?
The Jags defense looks invincible
It’s a safe to assume the Jags didn’t win three games because Bortles 125 or 82-yard performances.
The No. 5 defense is unbelievable. Through five weeks, the defense has recorded 20 sacks (leads the league), 10 interceptions (leads the league) and four defensive touchdowns. They have forced 15 turnovers which resulted in 74 points. That’s 55 percent of the team’s points scored.
A deteriorating QB Ben Roethlisberger is still better than most of the starting quarterbacks in this league, and the Jaguars secondary picked him off five times. That’s one of the reasons why the Rams are the underdogs: a young, and still-growing, Goff is facing a pass-defense that blankets receivers.
One thing I’ve noticed is the Jaguars, despite allowing at more than 660 rushing yards through the first four weeks, are able to stack the box and still impose a strong-man coverage. Their athletic linebackers in LB Telvin Smith and LB Myles Jack are able to shutdown the middle while CB Jalon Ramsey and CB A.J. Bouye are able to shutdown anything down the field.
In fact, Bouye and Ramsey have allowed the lowest completion percentage in the league. Both corners, especially Bouye, are able to physically challenge receivers immediately off the line.
Goff and the red-zone
The Jags pass-defense is similar to the Seattle Seahawks in that the man-coverage is so good. The Seahawks made it nearly impossible for Goff to find the best option because often times, they didn’t exist.
The Rams have one of the worst red-zone efficiency rating in the league: 43 percent. Against the Seahawks, the Rams were unable to punch it in with RB Todd Gurey (see fumble), and tried to counter that by going after Seattle’s strength: pass-defense.
On this red-zone trip, the Rams faced a third-and-12 situation. The Seahawks came out in a Cover 1-man. As soon as Goff takes the snap, he gives one look to his left and stays there, which dragged the safety towards WR Cooper Kupp, Goff’s target. While the throw was incomplete, it displays the mistakes the could haunt Goff in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars pass-defense will pick off passes like this. Goff has not progressed to the point where he can trick safeties into abandoning their zone. Had Goff held the ball and tricked the safety into thinking he was going to Kupp, he would have seen WR Sammy Watkins briefly open on a tight pass.
Take the free bread
Despite holding Le’Veon Bell to 47 yards, the Jags run-defense has been poor. In the week before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville allowed more than 250 rushing yards agains the New York Jets.
The Rams learned against the Seahawks that giving the ball to Gurley just 14 times was not the best idea. Take what the defense gives you; give the ball to Gurley. While the defensive front is strong, they have allowed big chunks of yards numerous times.
The Seahawks were able to shut out Gurley from the end-zone despite being on the doorstep. The Jags struggled to keep the Tennessee Titans out of the end-zone, even when shutting down the lanes, the Titans managed to plow through.
The Rams can win this game, but it will come down to defeating the Jacksonville defense rather than the Jags offense. Sean McVay will need to set the ground game up early, especially if they want to set up the play-action and the trick plays with WR Tavon Austin.
Los Angeles cannot afford to be one-dimensional in this game because the Jags defense is far from it.