Sunshine State bragging rights are on the line this week when the Jacksonville Jaguars play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Game time is at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 1 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Current betting odds list the Buccaneers as 1.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set for 48 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 13 NFL odds.
Tampa Bay is all but out of the playoff hunt in the NFC, as they’re 4-7 heading into December. Even if they win out, the Bucs will have a hard time reaching the playoffs. On the bright side, Tampa has shown some signs of life recently, winning two of their last three games. Even some of their recent losses this season have been by close margins, although the Bucs haven’t been good enough to stay afloat in the playoff hunt.
If nothing else, last week’s win over the Falcons took the Bucs a game ahead of Atlanta in the NFC South. If they can win a few more games down the stretch, the Bucs can at least avoid losing 10 games and stay out of last place in the division. Tampa’s schedule also features a few games against other losing teams, including this week’s date with the Jags.
While they have an identical 4-7 record, the Jaguars are not yet out of the playoff conversation in the AFC. While their chances aren’t particularly good, Jacksonville is just two games behind the four teams tied at 6-5 for the final Wild Card spot with five games left to play. The problem is that the Jaguars are void of any confidence or momentum whatsoever after losing three straight games.
The worst part of Jacksonville’s three-game losing streak is that all three have come by at least 20 points. That means it’ll take a swift turnaround to get the Jaguars into the playoffs. The silver lining is that three of their last five games are against teams with losing records. That should give the Jags a chance to make a late-season playoff push, but a win this week is vital to keeping their hopes alive.
As frustrating and inconsistent as the Buccaneers have been this year, I’ve lost all faith in the Jaguars. In fairness, all three of their recent losses have come away from home, but I don’t think being at home is going to solve things after three losses by 20-plus points. The one thing I know about the Bucs is that they can score points, at least when they’re not turning it over. That makes me feel confident that they can beat a struggling Jacksonville team and cover a modest spread.
The return of Nick Foles from injury has not provided the spark the Jags were hoping to get. He hasn’t been terrible and is at least completing a high percentage of his passes. But he’s barely averaging six yards per pass attempt in his two games back, so the downfield passing attack has been limited. That’s not a great sign, as games with the Bucs tend to turn into shootouts, especially with the Jacksonville defense struggling the past two weeks.
It’s worth noting that the Jaguars typically rely on Leonard Fournette and their running game to set the stage for their passing game. Fournette amassed 97 yards on the ground last week, but he struggled to get going in Jacksonville’s two previous losses. To make matters worse, the Tampa Bay defense is one of the best in the NFL at stopping the run. The Bucs have even held Christian McCaffrey in check twice this season. It’ll be tough for the Jags to establish Fournette on the ground, and without their running game, Foles will be fighting an uphill battle, even against the porous Tampa Bay secondary.
Meanwhile, I have little doubt that the Tampa Bay offense will have success moving the ball. Despite being just 4-7, the Bucs are third in the NFL in points this season. Jameis Winston may be averaging close to two interceptions per game and taking over three sacks per game, but he can also sling it. Stopping both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans is a near-impossible task for every defense. Both are averaging over 90 receiving yards per game, and even without much of a running game, the Bucs almost always put pressure on opposing defenses and are capable of scoring large chunks of points.
Equally important, I’m losing faith in the Jacksonville defense after their last two games. The Jags have allowed 33 and 42 points to the Colts and Titans, respectively, the last two weeks. Both teams have modest talent at both quarterback and wide receiver compared to the Bucs, giving me low expectations for the Jacksonville defense this week.
In the end, I trust the team that I know can score points more than the team that can’t. Even if they turn it over a couple of times, the Buccaneers will create explosive plays and score points. I can’t say the same for the Jacksonville offense, even if they get Fournette established. Admittedly, there’s some risk in taking a 4-7 team as a road favorite, but I’ll take my chances with the Bucs in this game.