Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens: JAX +7 (Pinnacle)

Coaches

Picking against a guy like John Harbaugh in the preseason hasn't been a profitable venture during his time in Baltimore. He enters this week with a 12-6 record SU and 3-1 record in Week 3.  However, this preseason we've seen plenty of coaching trends not go as plan either - Mike Shanahan, Mike Tomlin, Andy Reid to name a few.

One of our objectives in NFLX handicapping is deciphering coach-speak. Are they maintaining their philosophy of years past?  Are they giving the media one message and delivering another on gameday?  With Harbaugh it's tough to tell at this point, but based on early results and his response in the media - he doesn't seem to care one iota about what's taken place so far. 

Meanwhile, Mike Mularkey isn't shy to said what his mandate has been this preseason.  He's had his team in full-pads for as much time as the CBA allows for it in order to instill a different mindset this year. The Jaguars are coming off a horrible season and his primary goal is to generate a sense of confidence going forward.  Through two games, the vibe around the team is a positive one.

Markets

I was surprised to see the Jaguars open at +7 underdogs this week.  I had all my notes ready for a write-up last week as I really wanted to play them against the Saints, but once I saw their O-line situation I had no choice but to pass.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but it makes no sense to undermine the Jags this much.  Right now two out of every three bets are coming in on Jacksonville.  Trend-wise, in Week 3 NFLX action since 2000,  underdogs are 55-37 (59.8%) ATS when getting +3.5 or more points.

Quarterbacks

There are scouts and analysts out there that I respect. One such guy is Adam Caplan. Early in training camp he said Blaine Gabbert still looks jittery in the pocket and that it's a mental issue that hasn't gone away.  I haven't seen what he's said since, but Gabbert looks like a completely different quarterback this year.  Last week he put up a couple of touchdown drives, wasn't sacked, and looks in command of the huddle.  This after putting together a nice touchdown drive in Week 1 vs the Giants.

This is not only encouraging because they so desperately need him to develop, but he's doing it behind a severely banged up offensive line.  Improved confidence and composure in the face of pressure is often what makes or breaks a young quarterback going forward.

Behind him there is even better news. If this game is going to be decided by backups then the Jags have two QBs fighting it out for the number two spot. Chad Henne is more than capable to move the chains - even if he hasn't looked great thus far.  Pushing him is Jordan Palmer. A year ago he didn't look like he belonged in the NFL in any role, but through two games he's provided late touchdown producing drives.  No matter which one (or both) is in against the Ravens, I like their chances to secure the cover (or get it through the backdoor).

For Baltimore, there isn't much to say about Joe Flacco that we don't already know. He's played solid through two games and is taking a more involved role in the offense this year. The problem comes when he leaves the game. Tyrod Taylor has had his fair share of struggles with most of his production coming with his legs. Curtis Painter did throw for 3 touchdowns against the Falcons, but he's been downright awful in practice often throwing more passes to the defense than his receivers.  Neither have got much help from backup running back Bernard Pierce either. Hence, I give the slight edge to the Jaguars in the 4th quarter.

Loose Ends

One thing to keep an eye on here is the Jaguars WR position.  Baltimore's secondary has been shredded by top recievers (109 yards to Julio Jones and 111 yards to  Calvin Johnson) through two games. Justin Blackmon had a nice debut last week against the Saints and he could surprise again this week. Laurent Robinson was supposed to be their number one receiver, but he didn't even get a pass his way last week.  Both guys should have opportunities in Week 3.  The Jags have also had nice production from Rashad Jennings in MJD's absense.  The run game hasn't been a concern so far.  

Pick

I might be on an island here seeing as though there hasn't been any line movement on the dog, but I'm not about to pass up a point spread of this size in the preseason given all the variables in play.  It's entirely possible that the parade comes to a crashing halt this week, but I picked the Jaguars to win over 5 games back in July and I think they are still undervalued here in this spot.

NFL Pick: JAX +7.

The rest of my Week 3 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.