Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pat's Sleeper Pick: The Jags

The Doubt About It writers have a long-standing history of gambling/reminding one another of stupid picks from the past/lousy predictions/'stache-bashing. With such traditions in mind, one of the ways they intend to get ready for the NFL season is to pick a "sleeper" team and be held accountable for them all season. A "sleeper" team is defined as any team that a losing or .500 record last season and the writer feels has a chance to make the playoffs. Feel free throughout the NFL season to remind the DAI writers in the comments section about how awful their pick may have turned out.

Pat's team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Not so long ago, I used to hate the Jacksonville Jaguars. I rejoiced a little more gleefully than normal when Jerome Bettis took a 17 yard shovel pass from Kordell Stewart into the yellow paint to beat the Jags in overtime. I stewed a little more venomously when the Jags beat the Steelers on the infamous Monday Night blocked kick game.

And yet now instead of hated rivals, the Jags look more That is, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Third in the league is rushing offense last year, fourth in rushing defense, inconsistent quarterback play, a knack for playing down to opponents (see: 2007 Jacksonville v. Houston, 2007 Pittsburgh v. Oakland)...sounds like any Steelers team from the past 15 years.

And most of those Steelers teams have fared quite well, mind you. The Jags had some truly embarassing losses last year, leading them to an 8-8 record. But this is an impressively talented club at many different positions. Many novice fans would say that the tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew serve as the studs of the squad, and they certainly are going to pile up some yards this year. But there is a different tandem that I'm sure Ben Roethlisberger hasn't forgotten about and is perahps more worriesome for other teams: Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. The two tackles are what the 'stache refers to as "measts", short for half man half beast.

Behind those two you have a very underrated group of linebackers. Mike Peterson is one of the best in the league if you watch him, and Daryl Smith and Clint Ingram round out the group to give them some of the best speed at that position in the league. Yes, they are starting some youngins in the secondary in Gerald Sensabaugh and Reggie Nelson (chomp chomp, PisoNC), but they still have Rasean Mathis dumping garbage in Tommy Maddox's front...err...playing world-class corner for them, so I think the secondary should be fine.

The big question mark is obviously about the QB play though. Leftwich is not very good. And he's often hurt. But I am putting stock in him because this is a contract year and like anyone else, the man is going to want to get paid.

Throw a good defense together with a QB in a contract year against this schedule and you have a winning record. Just look at that schedule. Tennessee and Houston twice, Atlanta, KC, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Oakland, Carolina...that is not a daunting schedule by any means. All of this means that I am picking the Jags to go 10-6 and make the playoffs.

End of Post


Sean said...

Plus the Jags employeed former Steelers receivers Bobby Shaw and Troy Edwards. That has to count for something.

Sam said...

Don't forget Fuamatu-Maafala! I'm pretty sure the Jags were just trying to emulate the Steelers for the past 5 years or so, even hiring a Cowher-esq coach in Jack Del Rio.

I understand the pick and can see them being good, but my hatred for the Jags only falls short of my hatred for the Bengals, Patriots, and Ravens.

Anonymous said...

The Jags are definitely a tough team, but I think their lack of a decent passing game is what's keeping them from taking that next step.

As for my personal sleeper picks - as compared to last year's playoff picture, I think this year the Steelers, Broncos, and Panthers are in, and the Jets, Chiefs, and Giants are out. The Jags are a good pick, though.

Anonymous said...

I see the Broncos making it as well with Cutler having some more playing experience.