The Buccaneers (-2.5) host the Jaguars (+2.5) this Sunday in Tampa in a matchup that features two teams that have had much different months of December thus far. The Bucs are winners of three straight while the Jags have lost their last three.
To preview this Christmas Eve matchup, we sat down with Gus Logue of Big Cat Country to get a closer look at this Jaguars team.
1. With Trevor Lawrence’s status for this week’s game in doubt, what will the Jags offensive game plan be if Lawrence can’t go?
As offensive coordinator Press Taylor hinted this week, the game plan really won’t look much different. Taylor claimed it’s because Lawrence and C.J. Beathard like some of the same things, but Jacksonville’s coaches have had to alter play calling to hide the offensive line all year. You can expect to see plenty of RPOs and quick game on Sunday, though don’t be surprised if Beathard tries his best Lawrence impression with a deep shot off play action.
2. Jacksonville has been a hot and cold team for most of the season. What do you think has been the biggest reason for the inconsistencies so far this season?
This is a tough question without an obvious answer, even if you asked Doug Pederson, but here’s my best guess. Jacksonville’s playoff push last year was magical, but that 6-1 run to end the regular season and dramatic Wild Card round victory cast a spell. I think people in the building got overconfident in the current roster, believing it was closer to contention than reality. But there aren’t many stars on the team — kicker Josh Lambo is the only Jaguar to earn All-Pro recognition since 2017 — and when solid role players try to do more, it’s just resulted in brutal miscommunication errors. The Jaguars have a franchise quarterback and good game planners on each side of the ball, so the infrastructure is in place, but this roster just needs more talent. The team is still only a few years removed from a full-on rebuild.
3. What would you say is the Jags biggest strength and biggest weakness?
The Jags’ biggest strength is its passing game. It may be hard to tell because of the team’s small market and the quarterback’s mild manner, but Trevor Lawrence puts the offense on his back as much as any quarterback in the league. The biggest weakness for Jacksonville is depth, which can be said about pretty much every team at this point in the season, but it’s more apparent after the Jaguars front office relaxed during free agency and spent its Day 2 picks on a third-string tight end and third-string running back.
4. When looking at this game, what matchup is your X Factor that will determine the winner of the game?
Jaguars center Luke Fortner against Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea. Fortner was a third-round pick last year but has struggled mightily in the run game and against physically imposing defenders. That type of opponent is common in NFL trenches, but Vea has a case for the best big man in the game. In general, Jacksonville’s interior O-line has been a glaring weakness this season, and everyone knows the Bucs will have a stout front seven as long as Todd Bowles is around.
5. According to DraftKings, the Bucs are a slight home favorite at -2.5. The Bucs are currently riding a 3 game win streak while the Jags have lost 3 straight. What do you think of this line and what is your score prediction?
I’m not surprised it’s a near pick ‘em since we don’t know whether Trevor Lawrence will play. My score prediction is 22-15 Bucs. Each team’s respective streak figures to end soon, simply due to variance, but the Bucs are clearly trending in the right direction and the Jags are not. Jacksonville’s various injuries will be too much to overcome, even if Lawrence does play.