Preseason betting line: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5)
The Jacksonville Jaguars might still be light years away from playoff contention, but with a win in Week 5, they can lay claim to the title of best team in Florida. After a shocking 23-20 upset of the Dolphins in Week 2, the Jags will try for the state sweep when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 11 (1:00 PM Eastern).
So far, both teams have shown brief glimpses of what future success could look like, but for most of this young season, they’ve looked lost on both sides of the ball. Jacksonville failed to force a single appearance by the Patriots punter last Sunday, getting blown out on the road (51-17) to the surprise of nobody.
Still, things were arguably worse for Tampa; while Jacksonville was getting hammered by the cream, the Bucs got plowed by the crop. Houston racked up 138 yards on the ground sans Arian Foster, while Jameis Winston and the offense went a mere 1 of 12 on third down.
In fact, each team enters Week 4 averaging exactly 16.3 points per game. So you can certainly expect a competitive game come Week 5, just don’t expect a good one.
Entering this year, it looked like Winston had some great tools around him. But, so far, he’s been unable to establish much rhythm with his receivers: his favorite target, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, is injured for a month and WR Mike Evans has battled injury issues of his own. Meanwhile, Blake Bortles has shown some real chemistry with a pair of dynamic young Allens: Robinson and Hurns. The two have combined for 22 catches, 448 yards, and three TDs on the season. Against a shaky Tampa D, these two should find plenty of space to work.
Neither team has found much in terms of rushing room, but Tampa’s 30th ranked run D seems far more likely to get gashed. While the Bucs have bent far more this season, Lovie Smith’s D has shown some ability to generate turnovers, recovering three fumbles and picking off two passes. Jacksonville, meanwhile, has one interception all year, and that came in Week 1. With two teams this evenly matched, the turnover battle will go a long way in deciding the outcome.
Of course, if it comes down to a field goal, don’t expect the Bucs rookie kicker to come through. Kyle Brindza is a league worst 55.6-percent and has missed an extra point to boot. I don’t like the Bucs much to begin with in this game and I really wouldn’t like them if that preseason line holds up.
Straight-up pick: Jaguars.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Blake Bortles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)