Game Preview: Jaguars @ Broncos

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Denver Broncos - September 23, 2007 4:00 p.m. - Invesco Field at Mile High- Kickoff Temperature: 70 degrees, 10% chance of precipitation - Line: Broncos by 3.5

The Jaguars have an opportunity this Sunday to erase all of the bad feelings from their opening day loss to Tennessee by pulling an upset victory in Denver. Most people figured that if the Jaguars were 2-1 after three games they would be on their way to a very solid season, and a win on Sunday would more or less, "right the ship." Victories by visiting teams in Denver don't come often, as evidenced by the Broncos 75-22 home record since 1995, a winning percentage of .773 which is first in the NFL over that period of time. Overall, the Broncos have the top winning percentage at home since 1974, with a regular season record of 192-65-1 (.746), as well as a 12-3 home playoff record (.800).

Five Most Important Things for the Jaguars:
    1. Stop the run. For the second consecutive week, stopping the run is the most important key to victory for the Jaguars. The Broncos have the league's leading rusher, and although their offense isn't one-dimensional, their success is highly predicated upon an effective rushing game. If the Jaguars can put the game in the hands of a young, talented Jay Cutler, their chances of victory are multiplied.

    2. Run the football. The Broncos will stack up the line of scrimmage to try and stop the Jaguars rushing attack, pretty much how the Jaguars first two opponents have played them. The Broncos are currently ranked 27th against the rush, and the Jaguars must be able to run the football to win the game.

    3. Keep ‘em quiet. Denver is easily one of the loudest stadiums to play in, and the crowd and the altitude can become a huge factor. Jack Del Rio mentioned the crowd in his Wednesday press conference-- "The noise will be a concern this week. Us being able to handle it will be a concern," If the Jaguars can score early, they can keep the crowd quiet, and that will go a long way toward leaping over some of the mental hurdles of playing at Invesco Field.

    4. Play with controlled anger. There are plenty of reasons for the team to be extra-motivated for this game. Most of the media isn't giving the Jaguars much of a chance, and they know that the Denver offensive line will be diving at the defensive line's ankles all day long. Back in 2005, Denver's Matt Lepsis ended Paul Spicer's season with a cut-block (cheap-shot) that broke his leg. Spicer and the rest of the Jaguars should be out for some revenge on Sunday.

    5. Six's, not three's. The Broncos haven't allowed a red zone touchdown all year long. The Jaguars have only scored two touchdowns this season, and only one in the red zone. The Jaguars need to reverse the trend if they're going to win this Sunday. Field goals won't get it done.

What to look for:
    1. Look for the Broncos offense to attack the Jaguars over the deep middle. The Jaguars will be starting aging veteran Sammy Knight, who doesn't have a lot of range, and rookie Reggie Nelson at the safety positions. Javon Walker, Brandon Marshall, and Brandon Stokely have a decided advantage over the Jaguars secondary, and there could be some big plays to be had.

    2. Look for a big day by the Jaguars tight ends. The only match-up that seems to be favorable for the Jaguars is their tight ends against the Denver linebackers. David Garrard and the Jaguars offense need to exploit that.

    3. Look for a David Garrard potpourri. The Jaguars will have Garrard do everything this week including designed roll-outs, naked bootlegs, and quarterback draws. When opposing defenses talk about playing against Garrard, they always mention the worry of him running. The Jaguars need to fulfill those concerns.

    4. Look for a better effort out of the Jaguars offensive tackles. Khalif Barnes and Tony Pashos have been disappointing at best this season. This week they need to step up against an aging Simeon Rice, and a young guys like Jarvis Moss, Tim Crowder, and Elvis Dumervil.

    5. What happens in the first quarter may decide this game. If the Jaguars get down early, this one can get very ugly, as the Broncos rely on some great momentum from that home crowd. If the Jaguars can play a sloppy, low-scoring game, and be close at halftime, their confidence will grow and it will likely come down to which ever team makes a play in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: This is a measuring stick type of game for the Jaguars team as evidenced by coach Del Rio's comments–

    "This stacks up as a great early-season test for our football team. In Week 3, going in to face a very talented team that is undefeated and always plays well at home and has a No. 1 ranked offense, No. 2 ranked defense, talented roster, best in the league in several categories so it stacks up as a great challenge and a great opportunity to go in and see where we are. We'll come out of the game and that will have been an early-season test one way or the other and then we'll go to the next week. I think it's a great test to have for us."

That being said, the Jaguars match-up horribly with this team. The Broncos corners can easily shut down the Jaguars receivers, which will allow them to dedicate their game plan to stopping the Jaguars run. Defensively, the Jaguars injured secondary will likely allow some big plays by the Broncos speedy receivers. Sorry Jaguars fans, the team will enter their bye week on a down note: Broncos 24, Jaguars 10.

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