3TFO: Jaguars @ Bills, Week 13
Suddenly, the toothless Jacksonville Jaguars look a little less… toothless. A week after they pushed the Houston Texans to overtime, they were able to pick up only their second win of the season, outlasting the Tennessee Titans.
With a record of 4-7, the Buffalo Bills know their season is all but mathematically over. The potentially fearsome defensive line didn’t live up to the hype, and they now need to assess whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quarterback to lead them into 2013.
Despite the lack of playoff implications, this matchup will help decide the direction both these teams are heading as we end the season, and where they’ll both be picking in April’s NFL Draft. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the key matchups in this AFC battle.
Jaguars Pass Rush vs. Bills Offensive Line
The Jaguars have continued to struggle to find a consistent pass rusher this season, with just two players on the defensive line having a positive grade as a pass rusher. The biggest disappointment has been the lack of pressure coming from Andre Branch and Jeremy Mincey, who were expected to apply pressure from the edge this season. Branch has registered just one sack, two hits and 10 hurries on 230 pass rushes this season, giving him a Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP) Rating of just 4.3. Mincey’s PRP of 5.2 slightly betters that but, with just two sacks, six hits and 18 pressures on 387 snaps as a pass rusher, he is hardly going to intimidate the Bills’ offensive line either. That’s probably what prompted them to add recently released Jason Babin from waivers as, while he has come under criticism this season, Babin’s PRP Rating of 10.8 is well above that of Mincey and Branch.
The Bills’ offensive line has been one of the better units in the league this year in terms of Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE). With 81 total pressures allowed from 398 passing snaps, they have a combined PBE Rating of 83.9, fourth-best in the league. Second-round rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn has allowed just one sack and, along with seven hits and 12 hurries, he has a PBE Rating of 94.5, 35th among starting offensive tackles. On the opposite side of the line, Chris Hairston has allowed two sacks, four hits and 13 hurries, giving him a PBE Rating of 95.2.
JaguarsWide Receivers vs. Bills Cornerbacks
While Justin Blackmon wasn’t able to repeat his 236-yard receiving day from the week before, his 62 yards through the air last week were still good enough for his third-highest career total, giving further hope that the rookie is starting to figure it all out. Opposite him, Cecil Shorts continued his impressive run of form and now has at least 70 yards receiving in five of the past six games. With 747 receiving yards from 311 snaps in route, Shorts averages 2.40 yards per route run, ninth among wide receivers.
At cornerback in Buffalo, rookie Stephon Gilmore has had his ups and down but continues to show signs of improvement. He allowed a reception of at least 20 yards in four of the first five games this season, but hasn’t allowed a pass of longer than 18 yards since then. With 535 yards allowed from 402 snaps in coverage, he has given up an average of 1.33 yards per snap in coverage. Opposite him, Leodis McKelvin continues to start in place of the injured Aaron Williams, and has outperformed last season’s second-round draft pick. Allowing just 155 yards from 170 snaps in coverage, he is allowing an average of just 0.91 yards per coverage snaps, the best among the Bills cornerbacks.
The Henne Factor
As the Jaguars head into the offseason, the main question on everybody’s mind will be the future of Blaine Gabbert. What doesn’t help him is how much better the offense has looked with Chad Henne at the helm. On passes travelling 10 yards or more down field, Henne has completed 52.6% of his passes compared, with the 43.4% that Gabbert was completing. With that extra down field threat, it’s hardly surprising that the Jaguars not only look more competitive, but have also put up their two highest scoring games in consecutive weeks. Knowing that the passing game is much improved gives them a boost heading into the game with the Bills, and with another win we may have to start talking more about Henne’s credentials to be the Jaguars starting quarterback at the beginning of next season.