Lions vs Jaguars preview: 5 questions with Big Cat Country

It’s a big game for the Detroit Lions. It may not be the case at first, but it’s kind of a ‘prove me it’s real’ game for the Lions. Things went so well for the Lions in November. They won three games and took a Super Bowl contender to the wire. It’s safe to say that hope is once again high for Lions fans as their team is set to play a meaningful game of football in December with the playoffs still a real possibility. A loss here would really crush everything.

The good news is that the Jaguars have been a bad team this season. The bad news is that they too had a decent November. They went 2-1 on the month and capped it all off with a big win over the Ravens. They could end up causing problems for the Lions.

How many problems? I do not know. So I contacted my friend and colleague from Sparty Ryan O’Bleness of Land of the big cats to get answers. Here is what he had to say:

1. The Jags and Lions are warming up right now. What’s the secret behind the Jags’ latest three-game streak?

“I would say the biggest difference was quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s up play. The team goes as Lawrence goes, and while talent was never an issue with him, it took Lawrence a while to develop (thanks, Urban Meyer). Over the past three games, Lawrence has completed 83 of 108 passes (76.8%) for 815 yards (271.6 passing yards per game) with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He also averages 7.5 yards per pass attempt during that span.

“Lawrence still had some issues in the win over the Baltimore Ravens last week, but in terms of throwing, decision-making and balance, he’s played incredibly well the last three games. The winning run he led against the Ravens with just over two minutes to play was a thing of beauty. Consistency has eluded Lawrence so far throughout his young career, but he seems to be turning a corner and getting closer to the promise of his potential.

Elsewhere, the defense played a kind of hard-nosed defense against the Ravens, allowing Baltimore to gain 415 yards but keeping the team out of the end zone for the most part (the Jaguars only allowed two touchdowns on the day, and one was due to a short pitch after a Lawrence fumble).The rushing defense has regressed a bit over the past two games, but last week the unit played hard and made some big saves if needed.

“Head Coach Doug Pederson is also an aggressive playmaker and decision-maker (see the two-point conversion game to win the game last week). He is very good at drawing up shifts and creating schematic advantages. It hasn’t been perfect with Pederson – his fourth-down aggression and tendency to give up the running game have cost the Jaguars a few times this season – but he’s proving to be the right man to lead the Jaguars’ rebuild. Players seem to like playing for Pederson.

2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Jags?

“Offensively, the Jaguars have been strong in keeping Lawrence up. Jacksonville’s offensive line has played pretty well this season, especially in pass protection, as the team has allowed just 21 sacks on the year (sixth least in the NFL). The team was pretty strong on third downs, converting a 41% clip, which ranks 12th in the league. The Jaguars also rank ninth in the NFL in total offense (359, 5 yards per game), 13th in passing yards per game (229.1) and ninth in rushing yards per game (130.4), so the team showed they could be balanced.

“When it comes to offensive weaknesses, the Jaguars need to hold onto the ball better. Jacksonville has 14 gifts this year and its eight fumbles lost are tied for fourth in the league. Additionally, the team has had a little trouble in the red zone this season.The Jaguars have a 53.66 percent touchdown percentage, according to, which ranks 18th in the league.However, Jacksonville seemed to improve inside the league. 20-yard line in recent games.

“Defensively, the team was strong early in the season against the run, but as I mentioned, Jacksonville has regressed a bit in that area. The Jaguars have allowed 317 combined rushing yards over the last two games (158 .5 yards per game) and fell to the middle of the pack in rushing defense (114.8 yards allowed per game). In the passing game, the Jaguars were vulnerable in midfield and were injured on runs short and intermediate Jacksonville also recorded just 17 sacks, which ranks among the lowest in the league.

“What the defense does well is generate turnovers. The Jaguars have 16 takeaways so far this season, tied for seventh in the league.

3. Who is the under-the-radar player everyone should be watching?

“In my chat with Baltimore Beatdown last week, I identified wide receiver Zay Jones as an under-the-radar player who could make an impact against the Ravens. He ended up leading the Jaguars in reception with 11 catches for 145 yards. and won the two-point conversion reception.I don’t think Jones will replicate that level of production against the Lions, but I expect him to be heavily targeted again.

“Another player to watch is running back JaMycal Hasty. Running back Travis Etienne Jr. left the game against the Ravens with a foot injury last week. While Etienne should be available to play against the Lions, Hasty – who had a 28-yard touchdown reception last week – could see an increased role in trying to keep Etienne healthy. The Jaguars also recently claimed running back Darrell Henderson Jr. from the Rams. He was inactive against Baltimore, but should be active for the game in Detroit. As long as Etienne doesn’t have a backhand, he’ll continue to be the bell cow back, but if he’s not 100 percent, it’s worth watching the rotation in the backfield.

“On defense, rookie linebacker Chad Muma made his first career start last week against the Ravens. He played on 100% defensive snaps and recorded nine tackles. There definitely comes to mind a lesser known name that could do a lot of play on Sunday.

4. The Lions are a one-point favorite. Are you taking this bet?

“If I had to bet on games this weekend, I would stay away from this one. There are a lot of similarities between these two teams. The Jaguars and Lions have two of the youngest rosters in the NFL, both teams are currently 4-7, both have been through long losing streaks this season and seem to be turning the tide lately, and both fanbases have been suffering for a long time. There are a lot of interesting parallels here, and as a Metro Detroiter who roots for the Jaguars but follows the Lions closely, I’m very intrigued by this game.

“I can see this game play out a million different ways, so no, I wouldn’t be comfortable betting this one anyway.”

5. Who wins this thing?

“Again, I’m having a hard time figuring this one out. Both teams seem to have a lot of talent, but are so young and don’t know how to win consistently yet. I think Pederson has a little advantage over Dan Campbell in the coaching department, and that might make a difference, but Campbell’s players are brave and play hard for him. With the Lions playing at home to a raucous crowd at Ford Field (I’ll be there to watch), it gives them a slight advantage.

“I think it’s a close game throughout and comes down to the final game. The Jaguars have struggled to hold on to their fourth-quarter lead this season. Call it a gut feeling, but I could see this one ending the same way. Final score; Lions 31, Jaguars 30.”