Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
There’s an interesting mismatch on display in Baltimore today that may not be getting proper respect regarding the over/under.
The Jaguars defense has been just brutal in 2020. Like, maybe the worst in football.
Specifically speaking, not a single team has been gashed for more yards (418.9 each week). Jacksonville ranks in the bottom five of all 32 clubs against both the run and the pass. They don’t really produce any sacks or turnovers, either.
Making matters more difficult, several key starters are currently out. Their best defensive player, Josh Allen, has been on injured reserve with a knee injury. Corners C.J. Henderson, D.J. Hayden and Sidney Jones are all absent from the secondary.
OK. So we’ve got an already scuffling defense — one that allows nearly 30 points per game, mind you — down some of its best players. In a December road matchup, opposite a legitimate juggernaut offense with playoff aspirations.
And this isn’t just any juggernaut. This is the Lamar Jackson-led unit that decisively topped the NFL in scoring only a year ago with 33.2 points weekly. This year, that number has dropped to a still-healthy 27.9, though that also includes their lowest-scoring output of the season, which was the only game Jackson missed.
While the reigning MVP’s junior campaign hasn’t gone as swimmingly as last year’s historic sophomore one, that doesn’t mean Jackson isn’t having another strong showing in 2020. He’s etched a pretty 18-7 TD/INT ratio in his 12 starts and is still the most dangerous mobile QB, even threatening for 1,000 yards once again.
Given the rhythm the Ravens are in right now, having compiled a whopping 81 points the last two games since Jackson came off the COVID list, it’s a smart bet to employ them on a date with the lowly Jags.
What tips me over the top here is the inclusion of Gardner Minshew. Just like how this is a must-win affair for Baltimore, Minshew is faced with a must-show-up predicament, given that his job is in jeopardy with only three games left.
This will be the first start in eight weeks for the former Washington State Cougar. Most of that layoff was due to injury but even when he was healthy enough to return, lame duck head coach Doug Marrone opted to roll with his other two quarterbacks instead. Suffice to say, it didn’t work out and Minshew Mania is back — for the time being.
Such a mindset could trigger Minshew’s return to relevancy, as he has impressed at times after arriving in the league last year. He managed to carry this sorry franchise to a glowing 6-6 record in 12 starts, after all.
He’s 1-6 this year, however, although at least he was able to provide Jacksonville its only win in the opener prior to its current 12-game losing streak. And Minshew hasn’t even been bad at all, wielding a more-than-respectable 93.4 passer rating. That’s actually higher than the likes of Matt Ryan, Jared Goff and Joe Burrow, and it’s up from last season’s mark, too.
The Ravens of course feature one of the most talented defenses in the league but it’s a group that’s not at full strength. Jimmy Smith won’t be suiting up and the secondary might also be without Marcus Peters. Additionally, Derek Wolfe and former Jaguar Calais Campbell are dinged up as well.
Last Monday night, Baltimore surrendered 42 points to the Browns, who are led by Baker Mayfield. Minshew is a fair comparison to Mayfield’s overall skill set, which lends hope that he can churn out around 20-ish points, which is all we need if the Ravens do their thing on the offensive side of the ball. I’m buying a half point in case of a 30-17/34-13 type final.
The Bet: OVER 47 (-120)
The Record: 7-6-1, +0.2 unit
Last Week: Broncos-Panthers Under 45 (loss)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit