Predictions: Vikings vs. Jaguars
The Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars are set to face off on Sunday.
Jaguars writer Frank Scaduto and Vikings writer Ali Siddiqui gave their predictions on how the game could go.
Frank Scaduto, @EdScaduto
The Jaguars are the league's biggest disappointment at 2-10, and their 16 wins over the past five seasons is an all-time low in league history. So what can we find positive to say about this matchup with the Vikings?
First off, Jimmy Smith will be inducted into the team's "Ring of honor" Sunday. Many disgruntled longtime fans will likely attend solely for this reason. Smith was a final 50 candidate for induction into the 2017 class of the NFL Hall of Fame, and is a harkening back to the team's glory days from 1995-2002. Given that negative history the team recently set as mentioned above, any inspiration that can be derived from this would be greatly appreciated.
As far as on the field matchups, the Vikings defense proved in their last game against Dallas that they are superior to the Jaguars offense in every way, having given the Cowboys their toughest battle since Week One of this season. The Jaguars simply cannot, or are not willing, to run the ball for any length of time. New offensive coordinator Nate Hackett has picked up the playbook used by Greg Olson prior to Olson's release, and tried to keep things simple for beleaguered QB Blake Bortles.
Bortles himself has set a new all time record with 11 pick sixes in his first 41 starts. He only has 10 wins to his credit during that time. Even with Harrison Smith out for the Vikes, the other defensive backs can read Bortles' eyes and see where the ball is going. This could get ugly fast, especially if Everson Griffen has his way with left tackle Kelvin Beachum, who's played hurt most of the season.
Defensively, amazingly the Jaguars rank in the top 4 in many league statistical categories. They have played well for the most part, but continue to give up big plays when players are out of position. The middle seam is a weakness that Kyle Rudolph could have the best day of his career against. Paul Posluszny mans that area for the Jaguars, and just cannot cover good, quick tight ends.
Interestingly enough, this game features two of the worst running attacks this season in the league, mostly due to offensive line attrition on both sides. However, Jerick McKinnon would be more likely to break through on Sunday than would Chris Ivory, who missed the first 3 games with a male health issue. Yannick Ngakoue has been a pleasant surprise at rush end for the Jaguars, but the Vikings run defense is superior to the Jaguars. Only if the Jaguars win the turnover battle would they have a chance. Bortles hasn't proven capable of that this season, so my pick is....
VIKINGS 28 JAGUARS 13
The Jaguars score quite a few of their points, especially since Week Five, in garbage time. Expect the same here.
Fantasy tips: Start Rudolph and Adam Thielen. They will likely have monster days. Stefon Diggs will likely be covered by number five overall rookie draft pick Jalen Ramsey, who has looked the part of a top flight corner at times, but also has struggled against premier receivers, and inexplicably so against Buffalo's Justin Hunter two weeks ago. This leaves the big play Thielen against Davon House or Aaron Colvin, either way a true mismatch. Cordarrelle Patterson played at Florida State, and he might make some noise in his return to North Florida against Colvin in the slot and nickel.
Ali Siddiqui, @asiddiqui15
The Vikings absolutely need to win this game or their playoffs are all but over. At 6-6, they need to win their remaining four games to have a good shot at the playoffs. 9-7 will be very tough.
Four of their six losses have come by six points or less and the Jaguars are struggling mightily at 2-10 and have lost their last seven games, so the Vikings have a great shot at winning this game. However, the Vikings for many years have not been a good road team. Will this be an easy win? Maybe not, but still a game the Vikings should win.
Blake Bortles has regressed in his third season and is leading the league with 15 interceptions. Vikings defense is tied for fifth in the league with 12 interceptions. Xavier Rhodes has four on the season, which is more than the entire Jaguars team (3). Not having Harrison Smith will hurt, but the Vikings have enough on defense to stop this struggling Jaguars offense, which is 23rd in the league in total offense and 27th with 18.4 points scored per game. Third-year Wide Receiver Allen Robinson had a breakout season last season, but has not been very productive this season. Going up against Rhodes won’t help him.
The Vikings defense is third in total defense and fourth with 17.4 points allowed per game. They are also tied for fourth in the league with 31 sacks. The offense however has been a liability all season, especially the offensive line. They are 31st in total offense and 26th with 19.4 points per game. They are facing a Jaguars defense though that is fourth in the league in total defense, but 26th with 26.1 points allowed.
Vikings 24 Jaguars 13
Fantasy tips. Start the Vikings defense/special teams. Cordarrelle Patterson is always a threat to take a kickoff to the house and this defense is capable of forcing turnovers and could very well have at least two against this offense.
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