Jaguars at Ravens: Game Preview

The Jaguars lost another close game late against Indianapolis, 31-24, while Baltimore beat up Dallas, 33-24. Find out how the two match up.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, December 28, 2008, 4:15 p.m.

Jacksonville 5-10, Baltimore 10-5

Series history: Jacksonville leads, 9-6. Last meeting Jaguars won 30-3 in 2005.

Baltimore offense 21st overall (28th passing, 2nd rushing); Scoring- 13th – 23.9 ppg. vs. Jacksonville defense 12th overall (19th passing, 14th rushing); Scoring- 20th- 22.7 ppg.

Baltimore's offense is predicated on the ground game, as they'd like to get running backs Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain as many touches as possible. McGahee was expected to be the featured back, but he hasn't been fantastic this season, as he has just 647 yards rushing on the season while averaging 3.9 ypc. The big surprise in the backfield has been McGahee's fill-in Le'Ron McClain, who has 832 rushing yards on the season and eight touchdowns. Rookie Ray Rice has filled in nicely, as he's gained 454 yards while averaging 4.2 ypc.

Through the air, the Ravens are led by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco has looked good at times and not so good at others. He has started every game this season and has completed nearly 60% of his passes for 2674 yards, 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a respectable QB rating of 78.2.

Flacco doesn't have any game-breaking threats, just a few solid possession WR's. Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton are the main targets, and the speedy Yamon Figurs is the third receiver. Figurs is one of the fastest players in the league, but his route-running is unrefined and his hands have been questionable. The biggest playmaker on the offense aside from McGahee may be Todd Heap, who is one of the premiere tight ends in football.

The Jaguars front four has had major issues rushing the passer this year as rookies Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves haven't contributed much, and Paul Spicer and Reggie Hayward are on the down sides of their careers. The interior of the Jags defensive line has been underwhelming this season as John Henderson isn't the player he once was, and the combo of Rob Meier, and Derek Landri are little more than average.

The Jaguars linebackers were supposed to be a strength this season, but have also underachieved. The unit has been better since middle linebacker Mike Peterson was moved to the bench, and Daryl Smith has slid to the middle position, but they've missed far too many tackles. Smith is now out for the season, and Peterson returns to the starting MLB position.

The Jags secondary has been disappointing, but has played much better lately since Brian Williams was moved from strong safety back to cornerback. Rashean Mathis was playing at a high level, but is out for the season with a knee injury. Free agent acquisition Drayton Florence has been terrible, and was moved from starting corner to nickel. Safety Reggie Nelson has an aversion to contact, and he's found himself out of position several times this season.

Best offensive matchup for Baltimore: The Ravens interior offensive line vs. the Jaguars defensive line- Baltimore loves to run the ball and they should be able to against a Jags defense which hasn't been very good.

Best defensive matchup for Jacksonville: Gerald Sensabaugh vs. Joe Flacco- Sensabaugh is playing the best football of his career, and one final good game could earn him a huge payday entering free agency. If Flacco makes a mistake, look for Sensabaugh to capitalize.

Jacksonville offense 19th overall (13th passing, 18th rushing); Scoring- 24th 19.7 ppg. vs. Baltimore defense 2nd overall (3rd passing, 3rd rushing); Scoring- 3rd – 15.8 ppg.

The Jaguars offense has a threat of a great running game, but teams have neutralized the talented duo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor by placing extra men in the box and mostly playing cover one. Jones-Drew leads the team in rushing with 746 yards while averaging 4.3 ypc., with 14 touchdowns (2 receiving). Taylor's season is over as he was placed on the IR with a thumb injury. He finished with 556 yards while getting just 3.9 ypc.

Quarterback David Garrard is looking more and more like a one-year wonder as he tends to hold the ball too long, looks at his first read then checks down, and hasn't been particularly careful with the football. Garrard has completed 62.9% of his throws for 3493 yards, but has just 14 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. His 83.2 quarterback rating is pedestrian at best, and he hasn't been strong enough to get opposing teams to keep their safeties away from the line of scrimmage. Garrard has folded in crunch time situations this year.

The Jags best receiving threat is wide receiver Matt Jones, who has 65 catches for 761 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, Jones is out for the season with a suspension. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is second on the team with 61 catches for 555 yards, and tight end Marcedes Lewis has 40 catches for 489 yards and two touchdowns.

The Ravens defensive line is anchored by the great Haloti Ngata, who was a major Pro Bowl snub. Ngata has 53 tackles, and Marques Douglas and Trevor Pryce are also playing at a very high level.

The Baltimore linebackers are one of the best units in the business led by Terrell Suggs, who can do it all. In the middle, Bart Scott and Ray Lewis inside, and opposite Suggs, is Jarrett Johnson.

The Ravens secondary is a little soft with the aging Samari Rolle and Chris McCallister, but their safeties are stellar in Ed Reed and Dawan Landry.

Best offensive matchup for Jacksonville: Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Ray Lewis- Lewis is one of the best MLB's of all time, but Jones-Drew is a great playmaker who can run around or over Lewis.

Best defensive matchup for Baltimore: Haoli Ngata vs. interior Jags O-line- Ngata is simply dominant and the Jags offensive line hasn't been. Look for the Ravens big DT to dominate.

Special Teams

Baltimore: PK Matt Stover, P Sam Koch, LS Matt Katula, KOR/PR Yamon Figurs.

Jacksonville: PK Josh Scobee, P Steve Weatherford, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Brian Witherspoon, PR Brian Witherspoon

Special teams advantage: The Jaguars have solid coverage units, but Baltimore has the better kicking game. Special teams should be fairly even.

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