It’s time for the Jacksonville Jaguars to put their money where their mouth is. Quarterback sensation Gardner Minshew must exhibit he is worth more than the mustache hype.
The Carolina Panthers, on the other hand, are bouncing off a whirlwind of mess. Kyle Allen will start again for the Panthers. Luke Kuechly and the defense will try to continue to carry the squad.
Currently, the defense is fourth in yards allowed per game (287.5) and 12th in total points allowed (80).
With New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley injured, Christian McCaffrey has dominated as the No. 1 running back in the NFL.
How can both of these teams defeat one another?
The Jaguars, currently 2-2, have struggled on the ground in recent history. Other than last week, Leonard Fournette failed to produce a ground game. However, with the Panthers having a stellar pass defense so far, Minshew cannot force anything.
The best way to avoid errors is by running the ball and combining that with play-action calls. With blitzes expected, too, Minshew can play conservatively. He can play similar to Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and throw within five yards.
Forcing the offensive line to take a heavy load is not the ideal situation, but it can force Kuechly and the front seven to fall out of position or get too aggressive.
The other option is to run the ball. With safeties struggling to pick up angles and lanes, Fournette will have a field day. A lackluster defensive line adds to Fournette’s potential success too.
Defensively, the Jaguars look to flourish without Jalen Ramsey. How can the defense prosper without him? Send the house. The Jaguars need to welcome Allen to the league through man blitzes. Allen will rely on McCaffrey for runs and check-downs. However, Myles Jack can play down on McCaffrey. After a few plays, young Allen will be forced to throw dreadful passes.
The Jaguars must play old school, hard-hitting football that puts their opponents on their heels. They must force the Panthers to play their style of pace.
On the other side of the field is the 2-2 NFC South stragglers. The Newton-less Panthers will be a matchup that requires a win if they want to compete with the New Orleans Saints.
Offensively, Allen has been nearly perfect. Currently, he is completing 71.7% of passes and has four touchdowns to no interceptions. Allen needs to challenge Ramsey’s backup, D.J. Hayden.
Competition between D.J. Moore or Curtis Samuel and Hayden will be a matchup favorable for the Panthers. Also, keeping the defense guessing by utilizing McCaffrey as a receiver in empty formations will be crucial.
Lastly, Carolina must continue to play the college-style offense with RPOs and other options. The Jaguars’ pass-rushers are dominant against pocket passers but are not used to the quick, multiple option plays. These plays will keep the defensive line honest.
Defensively, they must stack the box. Fournette struggles with seven in the box. Forcing Minshew to defeat the highly-rated pass defense and put seven to eight men in the box will be key. The Panthers must trust their defensive backs and realize Minshew might get a few big plays, but it will be beneficial in the long run.
Both teams look to compete for a playoff spot with a quarter of the season done. The Panthers come in as 3.5-point favorites. The odds match well with the preview predictions as the Panthers are destined for more success with a variety of options and a prominent defense.