What Went Wrong?
For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, the Jacksonville Jaguars didn't even look like a playoff-caliber club in their season opener.
The Buffalo Bills did, and after a key injury to a division rival, they're suddenly looking like contenders in the AFC East.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Jacksonville -5.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 33% of bets for this game have been placed on Jacksonville -5.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Buffalo goes for a 2-0 start on Sunday when it travels to Jacksonville, where the Jaguars are hoping to rebound from an ugly offensive performance.
The Bills were 7-6 last December and flirted with an AFC wild card spot before fading down the stretch, losing their final three games and winding up nine games behind undefeated New England in the East to extend their playoff drought to eight years.
The expectations for this year's team may be raised after Week 1. While New England quarterback Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Bills were thrashing Seattle at Ralph Wilson Stadium, using a punt return and a fake field goal to help blow out the four-time reigning NFC West champions 34-10.
Buffalo also forced two Seahawks turnovers, using a complex scheme that occasionally called for no down defensive lineman to confuse Seattle's offensive line.
"That gives a team a lot to prepare for," Bills defensive tackle Marcus Stroud told the team's official Web site. "You never know what you're going to get."
Stroud was a three-time All-Pro with Jacksonville, where he spent the first seven years of his career. In his Buffalo debut, he had three tackles and a half-sack, part of a five-sack day for the Bills.
On the other side of the ball, Jacksonville was a more effective rushing team than any in the NFL over the last two years. Led by Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars averaged 154.1 yards per game on the ground in 2006 and 2007.
However, Jacksonville managed only 33 yards on the ground in the opener, a 17-10 loss at Tennessee. Neither Taylor nor Jones-Drew could get going, and there's reason to believe that may not be an aberration. The Jaguars lost both of their starting guards in the opener - Maurice Williams for two months or more with a ruptured biceps, and Vince Manuwai for the season with a torn ACL.
"Any time you lose multiple players at one position, it presents a problem,'' coach Jack Del Rio said. "That'd be for any team in the league. There's only so many guys, numbers-wise, you keep and take into the season."
Jacksonville was already without backup tackle Richard Collier, who was shot less than a week before the season opener and remains hospitalized. The Jaguars signed veterans Milford Brown and Chad Slaughter on Tuesday to add depth, but will rely on backups Tutan Reyes and Uche Nwaneri to step into starting roles.
They'll need to play better than they did in Tennessee, when the line allowed quarterback David Garrard to be sacked seven times.
The Jaguars defense, meanwhile, could have used Stroud to help stuff the run. Tennessee rookie Chris Johnson averaged 6.2 yards on 15 carries and the Titans ran for 137 yards.
"What happened last week, we've got to turn the page and move forward, get ready for the Bills,'' Taylor said. "They don't feel sorry for us. They don't care about the so-called distractions.''
Buffalo's offense relied on the run primarily in 2007, led by rookie Marshawn Lynch, who had 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns in only 13 games. Lynch had 18 carries for 76 yards and a score against Seattle, but the Bills also weren't afraid to let Trent Edwards throw.
The Bills threw fewer passes than all but two teams in 2007 - Edwards' rookie season - but gave him more of a green light in the opener. He responded by going 19-for-30 for 215 yards and a touchdown.
Life may soon get easier for both Lynch and Edwards soon. All-Pro tackle Jason Peters, a training camp holdout who signed just one day before the opener, is practicing with the team and may play against Jacksonville.
Taylor ran for 104 yards against Buffalo in a 36-14 Jaguars home win last Nov. 25.
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