Two teams suffering from disappointing seasons get set to square off on the national stage for Monday Night Football, as the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) host the San Diego Chargers (4-7) in a battle of underachievers that at least will result in a win for one side or the other tonight.
While there’s not much attention paid to the struggles of the Jaguars, who haven’t seen a winning season in three campaigns and as such finally dropped the axe on long-standing head coach Jack Del Rio after this year’s 3-8 start, there have been many questions around the struggles of the San Diego Chargers, as the team once predicted to win the AFC West outright now sits on the brink of playoff elimination after losing 6 straight games. Nothing seems to have come together in San Diego this year since starting 4-1, and for a team with a potent offense, relatively strong defense and plenty of talent, a loss tonight to reach the longest losing streak in a decade may increase the calls for head coach Norv Turner’s dismissal, along with general manager AJ Smith. Aside from coaching and management concerns however, it’s been even more interesting to watch the failures of the once-elite Phillip Rivers play out, as he’s been unable to pull out of a season-long passing funk throwing for only 10 touchdowns in the last six losses while posting 10 interceptions.
While San Diego’s offense has certainly has suffered this year without the presence of all-around contributor Darren Sproles (who is currently tearing it up for his new team, the New Orleans Saints and leads the league in all-purpose yards), it’s truly been an issue of inconsistency across the whole line-up, with the likes of wide-out Vincent Jackson being unable to produce in back-to-back contests, Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert unable to collectively produce big games, and the offense as a whole (ranked 6th in the league overall) unable to carry the Chargers through a game with Rivers making so many mistakes. There’s certainly no doubting there’s a depth of talent in this line-up, but whether it’s been due to inept coaching decisions, key mistakes at critical points in games, or simply bad luck, the Chargers haven’t been able to find winning form. Allowing opponents to frequently slip past them in the closing minutes of play, as indicated by their 6 point margin of defeat over the last 6 losses, it has come to a point where any team regardless of record now stands a chance at beating them, simply by holding their game together for 4 quarters of play.
That will certainly be part of the Jacksonville Jaguars strategy tonight, as their 4th overall ranked defense will try to shut down the passing game of Phillip Rivers, produce some mistakes, and get some points on the board to help their anemic offense out. Scoring just 12.5 points per contest and ranking dead last in the league in passing offense (131.3 yards/game), the Jags have been held under 20 points scoring in 5 straight games, and their three wins have come by virtue of the stout defense holding opponents to under 14 points. It’ll be a tough assignment for the Jags secondary tonight though, as Phillip Rivers has an advantage throwing to his big receivers against a relatively small Jags defensive unit, and the SD game plan will likely seek to exploit man-to-man coverage down field rather than try to hammer away initially at a very good Jacksonville defensive front. If the Jags can keep pressure on Rivers and drive him from the pocket early on (he’s struggled greatly this year when pushed outside and forced to pass on the run) and avoid too much man-to-man coverage against Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and the up-and-coming Vincent Brown, a low scoring game could work into their favor at home, where they were previously able to hold Baltimore to just 7 points on Monday Night back on October, 24th. In a low scoring game though, you still have to produce some points on offense, and that may be hard to come by for Jacksonville, with very few talented options on offense to utilize this year.
Working in rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has definitely taken a toll on the team (he’s throwing at a %48.5 completion rate, taken 28 sacks and only generated 118 yards/game of offense), but compounding that issue has been a lack of big-name receiving talent available, with their leading receiver Mike Thomas (37 catches, 368 yards, 1 TD) averaging just 33.5 yards/game, and just 13.4 yards/game in the past five outings. That has put exceptional pressure on the lone offensive bright spot, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has already rushed for a body-breaking 230 times, albeit good production at 4.5 yards/carry with 5 TDs. On pace for over 300 carries on the season, MJD will certainly be the key factor on offense for the Jags in tonight’s contest, and getting him into the end zone against the 22nd ranked rush defense in the nation will be critical. However, with the Jags having generated just 11 touchdowns on the year, just getting into the red zone and setting up field goals may be the best any Jacksonville fan can hope for, with the hopes that their defense can help stymie the potent San Diego offense, and keep them under 20 points in this game.
Betting lines for San Diego vs. Jacksonville at Sportsbetting.ag
It’s almost sad to see the potent San Diego offense favored in this game by just 3 points (-120 odds at Sportsbetting.ag Sportsbook), considering they are averaging 10.1 points per game than the Jacksonville Jaguars, and have a host of talent in the rushing game and the receiving game coming into tonight’s Monday Night Football match-up. The 3 point underdog (even money) Jacksonville gets even without Jack Del Rio on the sideline for the first time in 8 years definitely says something about their stout defense and the job the new head coach Mel Tucker has done, coming over from the defensive coordinator position. Defense definitely seems to be what most are calling for tonight, with a low 39.5 points on the over/under, which no doubt will be helped by the lack of offense produced by Jacksonville against a pretty good San Diego defense. On the money line tonight, San Diego is a -165 favorite while Jacksonville gets +145 odds as the underdog, but if you’re picking SD in this game, you might as well chase the 3 points on the spread as the Jags have only once kept a game within 3 points this season, regardless of the victor.
Our Pick to Win:
We find ourselves going back on our word of avoiding online sports bets on San Diego until the losing streak is over, but this is truly the last straw folks. If San Diego manages to find a way to lose on Monday Night football up against the worst offense in the country, and we subsequently lose our wagers betting on the favorites to win here tonight, at least we (and most especially Chargers fans) can rejoice in the almost certainty of head coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith getting fired. Missing the playoffs with this kind of talent is unacceptable in the NFL, and a change either into the win column or by cleaning house is in order for San Diego tonight. With Jacksonville out of any playoff hopes, and San Diego clearly the better all-around team, we’ll reluctantly side with the Chargers tonight, but in reality this shouldn’t be a close game if Phillip Rivers can finally string together one good performance with few mistakes. That has been very hard to expect, but against a team that can’t score we think the first one to 21 points wins tonight’s game and the Jags won’t make that mark for the 6th straight game. San Diego (please, oh please) pulls through on the big stage tonight, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars by a final score of 24-13.