On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the one team in Florida that isn't really struggling with attendance: the Jacksonville Jaguars. And despite that, the Jacksonville Jaguars are quite possibly the worst team in the state. All that despite having the league's leading rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew and one of the better defenses in the NFL.
So why are the Jaguars the worst team in Florida right now? Two reasons: 20 players on injured reserve, and Blaine Gabbert. Because of all those injuries the Jaguars are now starting, among other, LB Russell Allen, CB Ashton Yobouty and CB Kevin Rutland on defense. That's a third-year undrafted player, a cornerback who couldn't even make it onto the Bucs' roster and an undrafted rookie.
Still, the Buccaneers themselves don't have much to be proud of either. They've lost six straight games, their defense has completely collapsed, Josh Freeman has not been sharp all season and is coming off an injury, while Legarrette Blount couldn't even get going against the Carolina Panthers.
So which team will be less incompetent and manage to get something going for Sunday? I'm going with the Buccaneers. Hit the jump to hear my explanation.
Blaine Gabbert is a terrible quarterback right now. That's why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win. During their six-game losing streak the worst quarterback they have faced was Matt Hasselbeck, and the Titans quarterback is still miles ahead of Blaine Gabbert right now. The biggest problem with Gabbert is his complete inability to stand in the pocket and complete passes under pressure. He looks like he's afraid to take a hit, and that leads to horrible quarterback play.
Right now Gabbert is completing passes for 5.3 yards per attempt and he's taking a sack ever 11 pass attempts. He's not doing anything at even a replacement level right now, and that's a big reason why the Bucs can win on Sunday. At some point, Gabbert is going to have complete some throws for first downs. And he won't be able to do that consistently if the Bucs can play anything approaching decent defense.
Of course, to take advantage of that they will first have to stop Maurice Jones-Drew, who has rushed for 95 yards per game so far this season. Add to that 297 yards through the air, and the Bucs know the player they must stop: Maurice Jones-Drew. The easiest way to do that is to force the Jaguars to abandon the run by building a quick lead.
In steps Josh Freeman, who has not been able to build a lead like that early on, well, ever. The Bucs have not scored a touchdown in the first quarter this season. Meanwhile Josh Freeman is likely to play, but still has an injured shoulder - so his effectiveness must be in question, even moreso than usual this season. Legarrette Blount has been productive this season - except last week, when he averaged one yard per carry against the worst run defense in the league.
But ultimately, this Jaguars team just is not good enough to be a favorite over the Bucs. It will be an ugly game, Maurice Jones-Drew will get his yards against the Bucs, but ultimately Tampa Bay is more likely to win if only because the Buccaneers have the better quarterback. I'm predicting a 21-10 win for the Bucs. What do you think?