Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
1:00 p.m., Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
Kickoff Temperature: 73 degrees, 10% chance of precipitation
Records: Oakland 4-10, fourth place in the AFC West, Jacksonville 10-4, second place in the AFC South
Line: Jaguars by 13
Series notes: Jaguars lead all-time series, 2-1 winning the last two meetings in 1997 and 2004, and dropping the first-ever meeting between the two in 1996. The Jaguars won the season finale of 2004 in Oakland, 13-6, to finish with a winning record (9-7) for the first time since 1999. The Jaguars haven't had a losing season since 2003.
Five most important things for the Jaguars:
1. Play smart football. The Jaguars are better than Oakland in every phase of the game, with the exception of punting. The only way Oakland can pull an upset would be on Jacksonville turnovers. If the Jaguars protect the ball, they will win the game.
2. Run, run, and more run. Did we mention that the Jaguars should run the football? Jacksonville is the second-best rushing team in the league, and Oakland is the second-worst at stopping the run. The Jaguars should pound the Raiders on the ground for four quarters.
3. Keep the opposing quarterbacks in the pocket. At this point it is unclear whether or not Josh McCown or rookie JaMarcus Russell will start at quarterback. Both players have mobility, and McCown is a better passer when rolling outside the pocket. If the Jaguars can keep either quarterback in the pocket, it is likely that the Raiders offense will struggle.
4. There's still work left to do. The Jaguars aren't in the playoffs quite yet, and a win over the floundering Raiders will seal the deal. The Jaguars need to play this game with the same intensity that they took to Pittsburgh last week. If so, they can rest their starters next week and treat the season finale like a bye week.
5. Get Garrard back on track. David Garrard has been a little careless with the football over the last two games, and the results could've been disastrous. Garrard needs to straighten out his mechanics and stop throwing into double and triple coverage.
1. Fred Taylor in triple digits. Freddy T. has gone over 100 yards rushing in four consecutive weeks, and the way Oakland hasn't been stopping the run, look for Taylor to make it five straight.
2. A return by Maurice Jones-Drew to the end zone. It's been a few weeks since MJD has found pay dirt, and look for him to make a return trip for six.
3. Look for JaMarcus Russell to throw his first NFL interception. If Russell gets extended playing time, a mistake is inevitable.
4. Fast times. A match-up between two of the fastest linebackers that you'll ever see, in the Raiders Thomas Howard, and the Jaguars Justin Durant. Look for both players to approach or exceed double-digit tackles.
5. Look for a big special teams play. The Jaguars special teams unit was terrible last week, and they should rebound against a very average Oakland special teams group. Look for a fumble, blocked kick, or big return.
Final score: Jacksonville 31, Oakland 10.
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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