Free NFL Pick: Oakland at Jacksonville 12-12-2010

December 11, 2010

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Oakland Raiders at Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday December 12th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Jacksonville -4

Overview:

The 7-5 Jacksonville Jaguars are in sole possession of first place in the AFC South. A win this week would propel them to one game ahead of the Indianapolis Colts. While their record will not be good enough to earn them a Wild Card Spot, their playoff hopes are very much so alive and well. They have already beaten the Colts this season and will likely control their playoff destiny, as they play the Colts again this season for what will likely decide the outcome of the division.

They take on the 6-6 Raiders, who have made tremendous strides this season as well. The Raiders are two games out of first place, but if they can manage to gain a game on the division leading Chiefs before Week 17, they could potentially overtake the division with a victory at Arrowhead. As it stands, the Raiders have lost two of their last three games since the bye week. Even so, they destroyed the Chargers last week, solidifying their reputation as the most unpredictable team in the NFL.

While I always break down the Keys to the Game, I am going to skip that portion in this analysis, as this game rests solely upon the Key Mathchup. Since two players will decide the entire outcome of this game, the matchup warrants more detail than in any other game I have ever broken down.

Key Matchup:

Maurice Jones-Drew Vs. Darren McFadden

  • Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for over 100 yards in five straight games. He is the second leading rusher in the NFL and continues to be overly impressive every single week. He is on pace to hit 1569 yards this season. With seven games of 98 yards or more, Jones-Drew is one of the most explosive backs in the league.
  • The entire offense is predicated off of the success Jones-Drew sees. David Garrard can nearly throw the ball at will when Jones-Drew gets going, as he the run game commands the complete attention of the defense. Teams consistently load up the box to account for Jones-Drew, especially in the red zone. This accounts for Jones-Drew’s lack of production near the goal line, but also adds to the success tight end Marcedes Lewis sees.
  • Rolando McClain and the Raiders are likely to make Jones-Drew the focal point of the defense. Even so, if the Jaguars find success through the air, the Raiders will eventually have to play honestly, giving Jones-Drew the green light. The Raiders give up 124.3 yards a game on the ground, and since Jones-Drew is likely to see the overwhelming majority of touches, it looks like his streak is going to continue.
  • On the other sideline, Darren McFadden has just as resounding of an impact on the Raiders as Maurice Jones-Drew has for the Jaguars. McFadden missed two games this season and still managed to rack up 870 yards on the ground. When he is in the game, the Raiders always have a chance to pull off an upset.
  • Two weeks ago, he was held completely in check by the Dolphins, amassing only two yards on eight carries. The following week, against the NFL’s number one overall defense in San Diego, McFadden ran for 97 yards and a touchdown. His YPC average is 4.9 on the season, which is better than both Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew, among others.
  • McFadden has to have a big day on the ground. Similar to Jones-Drew, his play has an effect on the entire offense. Jason Campbell is able to throw over the top of defenses who cheat up to eliminate McFadden. With so much speed and an emerging Jacoby Ford, the Raiders make teams pay if they are unable to stop McFadden, despite loading up the box.
  • The Jaguars are not exactly stout against the run. They allow 110 yards a game, which is slightly better than the Raiders defense. Even so, McFadden should be looking at a big day on the ground. his play against the Chargers alone stands as a testament to how effective he can be against virtually any defense in the league.

Wrap Up:

I have been high on betting on both of these teams for the majority of this season. Both teams look like they are going to take advantage of the run game early, which could lead to some big plays in the passing game. I see this battle as being even on the ground, and given the success of both passing games when the ground game is going, I’m taking the Raiders simply because they are getting points. Don’t be surprised if the Jaguars come away with a narrow victory.

Free NFL Pick: Oakland +4


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