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Scouting Report: AFC Wild Card - Bills-Jaguars

Posted Jan 5, 2018

The Jaguars present a stiff challenge with their defense, but there is a weakness. There's also a sizable one on the offensive side of the ball for Jacksonville.


Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Charles Clay vs. Tashaun Gipson
Buffalo’s tight end has what could be an entertaining matchup with the Jaguars safety. Gipson has four interceptions and seven pass breakups, while Clay leads the team in receiving yards.

2 - Dion Dawkins vs. Calais Campbell
The three-time Pro Bowl defensive end will be a unique challenge for the rookie left tackle. The 6-8 Campbell is long and powerful and effective as evidenced by his 14.5 sacks this season.

3 – Jerry Hughes vs. Cam Robinson
The Jaguars have a rookie left tackle as well. He’s dealing with an abdominal injury, which won’t help against the Bills veteran pass rusher.

Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Takeaway ability
The Jaguars actually have a higher takeaway count than the Bills, but Buffalo doesn’t have the quarterback who is prone to interceptions. Blake Bortles was tied for the fifth-highest interception total among quarterbacks this season with 13.

Best advantage – Run game
Buffalo doesn’t run with quite the production that Jacksonville does, but the Jaguars run defense ranks just 21st in the league in rushing yards allowed (116.3) and 26th in yards per carry against (4.3).

Bills Number 1 Must
Limit Leonard
Buffalo may not be able to completely shut down Leonard Fournette, but they have to slow him down to the point where the Bills put the Jaguars in long down and distance situations. This will give Buffalo the matchup they want, Bortles versus their opportunistic secondary.

Scouting Eye
Bortles being Bortles
From Weeks 13-15, Blake Bortles did not throw a single interception as he averaged 300 yards passing per game, a 71 percent completion rate, almost 10 yards per attempt with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. His last two games however, Bortles went back to being himself.

He averaged 270 yards passing, completed just 56 percent of his passes, averaged less than 6.5 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and five interceptions. When Bortles throws at least one interception the Jaguars are 2-6 this season. When he doesn’t the Jags are 8-0.

Rookie wall?
Jaguars top pick Leonard Fournette has more than 300 touches this season, and one could wonder if the rookie tailback is slowing down as the postseason begins. Since Thanksgiving, Fournette’s numbers are down. He’s averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and 60 rushing yards per game in his last five outings. Only four of his 93 carries over that span have gone for more than 10 yards.

A perplexing run ‘D’
As talented and dominant as the Jaguars defensive front has been through most of this season, their Achilles heel has been their run defense, particularly on first down. On first down defensively, Jacksonville is last in the league when it comes to surrendering four yards or more on run plays.

The Jags give up four yards or more on the ground on first down more than half the time (51.3%). Their first down run defense is only marginally better. They rank 29th in the league allowing 4.72 yards per carry against them on first down.

Missing their go-to guy
With top wideout Allen Robinson out for the season, Blake Bortles came to rely upon Marqise Lee this season in the passing game. He leads the team in receptions and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns, but he has missed the last two games with an ankle injury.

As a result Bortles has had to rely on rookies Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole, as their other veteran receiver Allen Hurns is just working his way back from a high ankle sprain.

Lee told Jacksonville reporters this week that he expects to play Sunday, but his ankle injury has kept him off the practice field both Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Trash talkers
The Jacksonville defense ranks in the top five in a number of categories including total defense (2nd), pass defense (1st) and points allowed (2nd). They’re also apparently not shy in telling you how good they are either. The Jaguars are notorious trash talkers during games when they have the upper hand. Whether it leads to anything more than words between the Jaguars and Bills remains to be seen.

Third down dominance
The Jaguars defense loves when they get to third down. That’s when their second-ranked pass rush can often get after the opposing quarterback. Ranking fourth in third down defense, Jacksonville allows the third-lowest opponent passer rating on third down (52.0), the lowest yards per attempt (4.82), the fewest net passing yards (585) and close to half (23) of their 55 sacks have come on third down.

Buffalo Chips
Quote of the week
“The good thing about adversity and this team is that we’ve proved to be able to stay focused through the midst of whatever happens. We want the best for Shady. If he’s healthy, we want him absolutely to be out there playing and giving us his all. If he’s not, we have a tremendous group of guys in the backfield that would be able to step in and carry the load.”
--QB Tyrod Taylor

Stat of the week
The Jaguars and Bills rank first and second in the league in run-play percentage. Jacksonville leads the league at 49 percent of all offensive plays called, with Buffalo right behind at 48.2 percent.

Milestones in reach
Stephen Hauschka needs six points to become just the fourth active kicker in the league to have 90 career postseason points.

Sean McDermott needs a win Sunday to become the first coach in team history to win a playoff game in his first season as head coach.

Tyrod Taylor needs a win to become just the third quarterback in franchise annals to win a playoff game in his postseason debut, joining Jim Kelly and Frank Reich.

Final Note
Sunday’s game is the first NFL playoff game since 1985 in which both head coaches are making their playoff debuts.

 

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