NFL Preview - San Diego (3-3) at Jacksonville (0-6)|
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Moral victories aren't just for Jerry Jones anymore. And
though most teams would be reticent to pull positives from a 16-point defeat,
most teams aren't the 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars entered a Week 6 matchup with the unbeaten Denver Broncos as one
of the NFL's largest all-time underdogs - 27 points - and distinguished
themselves fairly well in staying within two points into the third quarter
before the hosts pulled away.
They'll try to add to that in a Week 7 matchup when they host the San Diego
Chargers in an effort to avoid the first 0-7 beginning in franchise history.
Jacksonville is already the first team in 29 years - since the 1984 Houston
Oilers - to lose its first six games by double digits.
Still, you can count San Diego coach Mike McCoy among the few not
underestimating the Jaguars.
"This is going to be a very good football team we're playing," he said.
"Everyone gave (Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning) a lot of flak last week
for saying hey, this is a very good football team and his comments were
correct, I believe, about what type of team it is."
Quarterback Chad Henne will likely make his fourth start of the season in
place of former first-round draft choice Blaine Gabbert, who's questionable
once again with a hamstring injury.
Henne threw for a season-best 303 yards against the Broncos, including 14
connections with Justin Blackmon, who compiled 190 yards. Blackmon has 326
yards in two games since arriving after serving a four-game suspension for
violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
His receiving cohort, Cecil Shorts III, is doubtful with a shoulder problem.
"I'm very hopeful," Shorts said. "I'm very stable structurally. Nothing broken
or cracked. But it's a lot of pain. It's a matter of how much I can handle and
take. We still have time to improve between now and Sunday. My goal is
definitely to get prepared like I'm playing."
Shorts has faced the Chargers once in his career and scored a touchdown in
Jacksonville's 38-14 loss to San Diego in 2011. Blackmon, at that time, was
still in college at Oklahoma State.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew had 97 rushing yards and 91 receiving yards in
that game, but has maxed out at 71 yards rushing this season - against the
Broncos - and has no games with more than two receptions.
"There were some positives that we can take from (the Denver game)," Jaguars
linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We can learn from this game. We definitely
need some improvements. We're definitely headed in the right direction."
A defeat of Jacksonville will push the Chargers past the .500 mark for the
first time in the brief tenure of McCoy, whose team has alternated losses and
wins since the opener.
Last Sunday, San Diego defeated the AFC South Division-leading Indianapolis
Chargers rookie receiver Keenan Allen caught a career-best nine passes and
exceeded 100 yards receiving for the second straight game. He also scored for
the second straight game, chalking up the game's lone TD on a 22-yard pass
from Philip Rivers.
On the ground, running back Ryan Matthews ran for a season-high 102 yards on
22 carries, a week after he'd gained just eight yards on three carries before
sustaining a concussion in a loss at Oakland.
Rivers is third in the NFL with 1,847 yards, tied for second with 14
touchdowns and reached 400 yards three times in five games before going for
237 last week.
"(Beating the Colts) was a turning point for our season," Rivers said. "That
doesn't mean it's going to take care of itself, but 2-4 would have been quite
a bind to be in. We've got to get Jacksonville (Sunday) before the bye and
find ourselves at 4-3, and see what happens the rest of the way."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Jaguars will want to throw the ball. San Diego is 25th in the league
defending the pass, and, though it's not resulted in victories, the insertion
of Henne and the return of Blackmon have given the Jacksonville offense a
boost. They may not exceed 20 for the first time, but they should at least
beat their average of 11.67 points per week.
The Chargers in turn want to run the ball. Jacksonville is dead last in the
32-team league while trying to stop things on the ground.
And, while the San Diego offense isn't necessarily predicated on running, Ryan
Mathews is capable and productive when getting 15 to 25 carries, as evidenced
by last week's 102-yard effort.
Very few teams go through an entire season winless. So, history suggests that,
as bad as they are, the Jaguars will eventually snatch a game from someone.
The Chargers, coming across the country after a big home win against a high-
end opponent, appear vulnerable. But until it happens it'll be nearly
impossible to predict. San Diego on paper is too talented, regardless of
Sports Network predicted outcome: Chargers 29, Jaguars 17
10/17 13:06:37 ET