Jags / Saints Preview I

Weekly Game Preview of the Jacksonville Jaguars. This week the Jaguars go marching in to New Orleans for a matchup with the Saints.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New Orleans Saints

Sunday, November 4, 2007, 1:00 p.m.

Kickoff Temperature: Dome

Line: Saints by 3.5

Records: Jaguars 5-2, tied for second in the AFC South; Saints 3-4, third place in the NFC South

New Orleans offense: 12th overall (8th passing, 23rd rushing); Scoring- 21st- 18.9 ppg. Vs. Jacksonville defense: T15th overall (19th passing, T15th rushing); Scoring- 4th- 15.7 ppg.

    The Saints have one of the best passing attacks in the league led by quarterback Drew Brees, who has rebounded after a shaky start to his season. Brees has been very efficient in the Saints three-game winning streak, completing over 70% of his passes for an average of over 260 yards per game. Brees has thrown eight touchdown passes and only one interception over the last three weeks, and has a quarterback rating of over 111.

    Brees' most familiar target is running back Reggie Bush, who the Saints will line up nearly everywhere on the field. Bush has caught 43 passes already this season, mostly for short yardage (only averages 5.4 yards per reception). The Saints will try to create match-ups to get Reggie Bush in space where he is very explosive. On the outside, Brees likes to go to Marques Colston, who leads all New Orleans receivers with 34 receptions for 348 yards and five touchdowns. Other targets in the passing game are Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, David Patten, and tight ends Eric Johnson and Billy Miller.

    New Orleans hasn't done much on the ground since running back Deuce McCalister went down for the season with a torn ACL. Reggie Bush currently leads the team in rushing with 362 yards on 96 carries, with two touchdowns. Aaron Stecker will also get some carries here and there to lessen the workload on Bush. Mike Karney is the Saints short-yardage fullback who has two touchdowns on the season.

    The Saints will likely try to spread out the Jaguars defense and throw underneath. Devery Henderson is probably the Saints best deep threat receiver, but he should be handled easily by the Jaguars corners, assuming Brian Williams is healthy enough to play. Reggie Bush is often used as a decoy, but he must be accounted for on every play. Bush can change a game on any single snap.

Jacksonville offense: 20th overall (27th passing, 4th rushing); Scoring- T22nd- 18.7 ppg. Vs. New Orleans defense: 19th overall (25th passing, 10th rushing); Scoring- 22nd- 23.1 ppg.

    The Jaguars ultra-conservative ball-control offense will likely have to throw the football a little bit more this week if they are going to find any success. The Jaguars are likely the easiest team in the NFL to prepare for, in terms of what they do on offense. They will run the ball as much as possible, especially with the inexperienced, often-erratic Quinn Gray under center. If the Saints are going to stop the Jaguars offense, it will come down to execution and penetration. If the Jaguars offensive line can control the line of scrimmage, the Jaguars offense is patient enough to move down the football field methodically, while controlling the clock and keeping the opposing offense on the sidelines.

    Up front, the Saints line up with defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant, along with tackles Brian Young and Hollis Thomas. Smith and Grant are fantastic pass rushers, and they must be neutralized with a strong running game. Hollis Thomas does a solid job of plugging up the middle, but the Saints high ranking against the run isn't so much a product of them being a great run stopping team, as much as a poor team against the pass.

    Linebackers Scott Shanle, Mark Simoneau, and Scott Fujita are very average football players, and they can be taken advantage of in the passing game. The Saints secondary has been burned for much of the year by their opponents passing game. Cornerbacks Mike MacKenzie and Jason David are not especially good in man coverage, and safeties Josh Bullocks and Roman Harper are both big hitters who are better against the run than they are against the pass.

    The Saints defense can't stop the pass, but the Jaguars offense can't pass. This plays into the Saints hands.

Special Teams

Saints kickoff return- 30th (20.3 ypr.); punt return- 8th (11.1 ypr.); punting- 14th (43.8 gross); net punting- 26th (36.0 avg.); kickoff coverage- 8th (21.1 ypr. allowed)

Jaguars kickoff return- 9th (24.9 ypr.); punt return- T24th (7.3 ypr.); punting- T23rd (42.3 gross); net punting- T13th (37.8 avg.); kickoff coverage- 2nd (17.8 ypr. allowed)

Saints: PK Olindo Mare, P Steve Weatherford, LS Kevin Houser, KOR Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas, Aaron Stecker, PR Reggie Bush.

    Mare is just 4/8 on field goals with a long of 34 yards. Lance Moore is averaging 18.8 yards per kickoff return, Pierre Thomas is averaging 23.8 yards per kickoff return, Lance Moore has averaged 13.4 yards per punt return on nine opportunities.

Jaguars: Jaguars: PK John Carney, P Adam Podlesh, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Maurice Jones-Drew, PR Dennis Northcutt.

    Carney is 8/10 on field goals with a long of 41 yards. Jones-Drew is averaging 28.4 yards per kickoff return. Northcutt is averaging 8.0 yards per punt return on ten chances. If Jones-Drew can't return kicks on Sunday, Scott Starks may be the primary kick returner.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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