If the scripted offensive plays for the Minnesota Vikings work out as planned early in Sunday's game in Jacksonville, the Jaguars may be the ideal opponent for the Vikings to face in a must-win, momentum-building phase.
On paper, the players on the Jacksonville roster are pretty impressive. But, the problem with the Jags is that they have found themselves so consistently coming from behind in games because of notoriously slow starts.
Through 12 games, the Jaguars have scored just 31 points in the first quarter. That translates into four touchdowns and one field goal. Even if spread out to as many games as possible, that means that Jacksonville has gone scoreless in the first quarter in seven of 12 games. Opponents have outscored them 51-31 in the first quarter, as Jacksonville has allowed six touchdowns and three field goals in the first quarter.
The problem for the Jaguars can be forwarded by their performance in the second quarter, where they have consistently been outscored and outscored big.
Jacksonville has allowed 116 points in the second quarter, an average of 10 points a game. How significant is that? Only two teams in the NFL – New Orleans (130) and San Francisco (126) have allowed more second-quarter points. At least the Saints can say that they’ve done their part in the second quarter, scoring 104 points this season. San Francisco? They’re 1-11 and the second quarter is as good a reason as any to explain why games get away from them, but the 49ers have scored 81 second-quarter points.
Jacksonville has scored just 52 second-quarter points, less than half of what they’ve allowed. The result has been that, by the time teams head to locker room at halftime, Jacksonville has been outscored 167-83 – allowing more than twice as many points as they have scored.
A typical halftime score for the Jaguars has been to be trailing 14-7 at the half. For every game that they been tied at halftime, they’ve had one on average that has them trailing by 14 points. If the Vikings can stick to the script of what the Jaguars have done all season, it could be lights out by the time the third quarter begins, because nobody has been better defensively in the third quarter than the Vikings.
Jacksonville hasn’t done a whole lot better in the third quarter of games, being outscored 73-44 this season. But, it’s what the Vikings have done that brings the potential to open up a lead and close out the game statistically probable.
Through 12 games, the Vikings have allowed just 20 points in the third quarter, far and away the best in the NFL this season. They make halftime adjustments and keep teams on their heels in the third quarter. For a team that so consistently trails by a touchdown or more in the third period, it doesn’t bode well for a second-half comeback to go up against a team that is so stingy in giving up points in the third quarter.
To look at Jacksonville’s roster and the young talent it has on both sides of the ball, the 2-10 record the Jaguars have put up doesn’t make logical sense. The team has too many good players to have such a rotten record. However, when you factor in their first-half struggles – coming out of the gate notoriously slow and typically being doubled in points by halftime – and combine that with the Vikings’ penchant for shutting down opponents in the third quarter, if the season-long script repeats itself, the Vikings should find themselves with the opportunity to be ahead by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter.
So many other teams have faced that same reality – a big lead heading into the final 15 minutes. Most of them have been able to hold off the Jaguars, which is why, at a time when the Vikings desperately need a win to keep their struggling playoff hopes alive, the Jaguars appear to be the type of team that will give them the opportunity to build a lead and the let the defense make it hold up in the fourth quarter.