Free NFL Picks: Jacksonville at Dallas 10-31-2010

October 28, 2010


Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys

Sunday October 31st, 2010

Line: Cowboys -6.5


Of all the games this week, this is by far the most difficult to break down. With the Jaguars, you have a team that has overachieved and come up with three wins so far this season, including a victory over the Colts. The Cowboys are 1-5, but are loaded with talent. With Tony Romo breaking his clavicle last week, the Cowboys are in an even bigger hole as they approach mid season. The Cowboys are at home, but that hardly matters as they have not won a single home game this season.

Keys to the Game:

  • How will Jon Kitna perform? Kitna didn’t receive many reps with the first team offense this off season. Tony Romo isn’t one of those quarterbacks who taps his hat a lot. People have harsh opinions of Tony Romo, but nobody can deny his unwillingness to come out of the game. In training camp, you may remember Kitna throwing a ball behind Dez Bryant and which made Bryant sustain an injury before the season even got started. Some may think the Cowboys should have given Kitna more reps in order to avoid having an ill prepared 2nd string quarterback, but for reasons like the Bryant injury, the Cowboys thought it would be best to give Romo a large majority of the snaps. Kitna is regarded as one of the best backups in the league. He is a seasoned veteran, so none of this is new to him. The Jags allow 253.1 yards in the air a game, so Kitna should not have problems finding open receivers. The thing that separates Romo from Kitna the most is Romo’s mobility. Kitna needs better protection, as he can’t run outside of the pocket and create time for himself. The Cowboys have had problems protecting their quarterback, Tony Romo’s clavicle should suffice as exhibit A, but the Jaguars are also inept when it comes to rushing the passer. This makes the Jaguars a good game for Kitna to ease into the lineup.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew is the key to everything in this game. Jones-Drew is the 11th best running back in the NFL statistically, but he cannot boast about his 3.8 yard per carry average. Jones-Drew receives little help with blocking and the Jaguars have a sub par passing game, but for the Jaguars to be successful, his yards per carry need to gravitate towards the 5.0 mark. Jones-Drew has been held to under 60 yards three times this season, each time being blown out by over three scores. He has uncharacteristically only posted one game over 100 yards. Coincidentally, that same game resulted in a victory over the Colts. When Jones-Drew is on, the entire team clicks. It is difficult to succeed with this logic, however, as everyone in the entire NFL knows that he is all the Jaguars have offensively. The Cowboys have already faced the leagues top four running backs this year, so Jones-Drew isn’t really going to impress them. While their run defense has struggled, I assume a lot of that has to do more with the personnel they have faced, rather than their own inadequacies.
  • Dez Bryant caught two touchdown passes and ran back a punt return against one of the NFL’s most feared defenses last week. Even better news? Jon Kitna was on the other end of both touchdown passes. Bryant has emerged as a force in the Cowboys passing game. With Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Jason Witten on the field, teams might lose sight of Bryant, which could prove to be disastrous. Roy Williams was completely shut down last week, hauling in zero catches on the evening. What makes the Cowboys dangerous, however, is that they have four guys who can have 100+ yard games on any given night. The Jaguars already struggle against the pass, so the Cowboys might feel a bit more comfortable with Jon Kitna throwing the ball around on Sunday. They don’t need to rely completely on the running game, at least not in this one. The Cowboys need a big game from one of their four big time targets. If Bryant continues to have the type of production he put out last week, Roy Williams might become expendable by the end of the year.
  • David Garrard is back, which is good news for Jones-Drew. I would still call Garrard a bottom of the barrel quarterback, but at least he is an upgrade from last week’s starter, Todd Bauman. Garrard’s play relies heavily on the production of Maurice Jones Drew. There is no doubt about it, the Cowboys are going to load up the box. Demarcus Ware, Bradie James, Anthony Spencer, and Keith Brooking are all going to have one mind set, to stop Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars can find serious holes in the Cowboys defense if they can utilize the pass. Garrard needs to find his receivers down the field. Check downs and screens to Jones-Drew aren’t going to take any heat off of their running back. Mike Thomas and Marcedes Lewis have both had big time games and Garrard needs to look their way if and when Jones-Drew struggles. When the running game suffers, so does the passing game, which should not be the cases as the two should compliment each other. If the Jaguars come out throwing, the Cowboys might need to throw away their defensive game plan. This would give Maurice Jones-Drew a little bit of breathing room.

Wrap Up:

The Cowboys are not as bad as their record is. I could see them blowing the Jaguars out completely and it wouldn’t come as a shock. The Jags have been torched twice in a row. They haven’t been competitive in any of the games they have lost, so to say the Jags are going to lose is to say they are going to lose big. While the Jaguars are the worst team the Cowboys have played this season, the Cowboys are in complete disarray. They performed up to their potential once this season when they faced the Texans, but they can’t compete at that level without Tony Romo. They have no hope, direction, or quarterback. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond with their coach’s job in limbo.

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