The secret to making a pick for tonight’s Monday Night Football? Throw the formlines out the window. Frank Doyle reports.
Form counts for nothing in Jacksonville tonight. These are two bad teams, but not reliably so. San Diego and Jacksonville are both teams in transition, and whichever one of them responds best to that transition will win the game tonight.
The transition in Jacksonville is the more obvious. Head coach Jack Del Rio was fired last week and the team itself was sold for $760 million. Not bad for an outfit that’s posted a third losing season in a row and struggles to sell tickets for every game.
Defensive co-ordinator Mel Tucker takes over the headset from Del Rio but his task is pretty simple. He just needs his guys to show guts and heart and prove that they want to play in the NFL.
Everybody is playing for his job tonight, and for the remaining weeks of the season. Once Tucker makes that clear, the players will do the rest. If they’re not good enough, there isn’t much else they can do once they’ve done their best.
The situation isn’t as straightforward for the Chargers. Norv Turner is still head coach, but he’s Dead Man Walking. There’s no way he’s keeping his job after such a disappointing season.
So the question is how will his players respond? Will they man up for Norv, like the Dolphins have been doing for Tony Sparano, or will they take their foot off the gas, feel a little twinge of sympathy and then forget all about Norv and look forward to another sunny Christmas in Southern California?
On paper, San Diego is the better team. Blaine Gabbert has not performed to the level of his fellow rookies Cam Newton and Andy Dalton, while nobody has ever doubted Philip Rivers’ gifts as a quarterback. In terms of offense, the only advantage that Jacksonville enjoys over San Diego is Maurice Jones-Drew, who’s one of the premier running backs in the National Football League.
So the sports betting choice tonight is on the intangibles. Who wants it the most? Do the Chargers want to save Norv Turner’s job? Do the Jags want to show it was all Jack Del Rio’s fault? Can Blaine Gabbert stand tall in the pocket and not blink in the face of the pass rush? These are the battles that will decide tonight’s game.