NFL: Baltimore Travels to Jacksonville for Monday Night Football

Frank Doyle | Updated Oct 24, 2011

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ESPN are surely dreading the ratings for tonight’s Monday Night Football game between Baltimore and Jacksonville but bettors will always have an interest. Frank Doyle reports.

The problem with Jacksonville isn’t that the Jags are bad. It’s that they’re boring.

There are lots of bad teams in the League, but stories go with them. The struggle to survive without Peyton Manning. Peyton Hillis sandwiched by the Madden curse on one side and some weird Cleveland curse on the other.

Whereas the Jags are just there. They’re not good, but they’re not awful either. They’re eighth in the league in total defense, twelfth in points conceded per game – the Jets, Eagles and Cowboys all give up more. Jacksonville isn’t a team that just rolls over.

The problems are on offense of course. If the rookie starting quarterbacks of 2011 were Marx brothers, Blaine Gabbert would be Zeppo. The guy nobody remembers.

But while Gabbert isn’t good, he isn’t killing the Jags the way Donovan McNabb has been killing Minnesota. He’s doing his best, and some of the pressure on him is relieved by the fact that the Jaguars are blessed with a stud running back in veteran Maurice Jones-Drew.

Jones-Drew has a career average of 4.6 yards per carry, and his 572 yards for the season so far is third in the league overall, behind Oakland’s Darren McFadden and Buffalo’s Fred Jackson. They’re good numbers in any football league.

It’s the lack of explosiveness that’s killing Jacksonville. Jacksonville can only club opponents into the ground, by stopping them on defense and then slowly strangling them with Jones-Drew on offense. If the Jaguars fall behind they’re cooked because they can’t make plays on either side of the ball – the offense can’t rip up the downfield coverage and the defense doesn’t have the ability generate turnovers.

Jacksonville is a big NFL betting underdog tonight because the team it faces, the Baltimore Ravens, can do both those things. The Ravens can terrorise Gabbert on defense and if Joe Flacco has time in the pocket he can cut any defense open.

For Jacksonville to win the Ravens have to blow up like they did against Tennessee and Jones-Drew has to run for well over a hundred yards against the second rated rushing defense in the league. That might see Jacksonville win a 10-9 thriller. But otherwise, it’s looking like a purple reign in Jacksonville tonight.

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