Battle of Inconsistency
Jacksonville, FL - With their sixth loss last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars were knocked out of the AFC South race and all but eliminated from playoff contention.
They'd have a far rosier outlook in the NFC North, where the Minnesota Vikings maintain a share of the lead despite a .500 record.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made the Jaguars -1 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on the Jaguars -1 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
In the thick of the race in one of the NFL's weakest divisions, the Vikings look to pull out of a three-way first-place tie on Sunday when they visit the dejected Jaguars.
Jacksonville (4-6) lost 24-14 to undefeated division rival Tennessee last Sunday, eliminating the Jaguars from the AFC South race and putting their chances for a third playoff appearance in four years in serious jeopardy. Even if the Jaguars win out, they're not guaranteed a trip to the postseason.
Coach Jack Del Rio didn't sound optimistic after last week's game.
"It's absolutely as dismal an outlook as you can have and not be out," he said after his team blew an 11-point halftime lead by getting outscored 21-0 in the second half. "We'd have to win every one to have a chance to qualify. It's a very remote possibility."
On Monday, however, Del Rio vowed his team wouldn't give up on the season.
"Our guys are professional," he said. "The coaches and players are going to continue to do our jobs to the best of our ability and be professional about it. We all recognize this is a very competitive game and we want to be at our very best at all times, finish strong and play good football and have fun doing it. We're going to focus on execution and let it rip."
While Del Rio searches for ways to keep his team motivated, Vikings coach Brad Childress shouldn't have a problem doing the same for his club. Though Minnesota (5-5) has just one more win than Jacksonville, it's tied atop the NFC North with Chicago and Green Bay.
The Vikings missed a chance to take sole possession of first place last week, when they were outscored 13-0 in the second half of a 19-13 loss at Tampa Bay.
"Tough outcome. We knew that we'd have to come down here and play error-free football," said Childress, whose team has four losses by seven points or fewer. "Probably the only positive is that we've got a chance to win the NFC North. Everybody is 5-5."
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson followed up a season-high 192-yard effort with just 85 rushing yards last week, snapping his streak of four straight 100-yard games - one shy of the franchise record set by Robert Smith in 2000.
The league leader with 1,100 yards on the ground this season, Peterson will try to bounce back against a Jaguars defense that's held opponents to an average of 97.6 rushing yards in five games at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
A big game from Peterson could be particularly important if the Vikings are without some of their top defensive players Sunday. Three of the team's star defensive linemen went to New York this week to meet with NFL officials regarding recent transgressions that could result in suspensions.
Defensive end Jared Allen was fined $25,000 - his third fine of the season - for a recent spate of late hits, but won't be suspended. Tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, who are unrelated, are still awaiting word from the league after testing positive for a weight-loss diuretic that is on the list of banned substances. They could face four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Allen leads the team with eight sacks and Kevin Williams is second with seven. All three linemen play pivotal roles in Minnesota's second-ranked run defense. Childress was asked about the situation Monday.
"I understand the question and I wish I could give you some insight, but those things are going to be between the league and who the league deals with," he said. "So it's difficult for me to comment on that."
While the Vikings hope to be at full strength defensively, the Jaguars will try to prove they're not mailing in their season.
"It's been worse," said Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor, averaging a career-low 3.6 yards per carry - down significantly from his career-best 5.4 mark from last season. "You still want to play. You still want to play to win them."
The Vikings have won two of three all-time meetings with the Jaguars, including a 27-16 victory in the teams' last matchup Nov. 28, 2004. They're making their first trip to Jacksonville, where the Jaguars have dropped four of five this season.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
MINNESOTA is 2-1 against the spread versus JACKSONVILLE since 1992
MINNESOTA is 2-1 straight up against JACKSONVILLE since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
[DE] Kenechi Udeze IR - Illness - 08/16/08
[LB] E.J. Henderson IR - Foot - 10/04/08
[DE] Jayme Mitchell IR - Knee - 08/09/08
[DE] Jared Allen is doubtful - Shoulder - 11/03/08
[DT] Kenderick Allen IR - Wrist - 08/19/08
[LB] Heath Farwell IR - Knee - 08/11/08
[LB] David Herron missed last game, "?" - Hip - 11/02/08
[CB] Scott Starks IR - Knee - 09/24/08
[OT] Richard Collier reserve/non-football injury list - Upper Body - 09/02/08
[OG] Vince Manuwai IR - Knee - 09/08/08
[OL] Chris Naeole IR - Hand - 10/26/08
[OG] Maurice Williams IR - Bicep - 09/08/08
[LB] Mike Peterson is upgraded to available to play - Disciplinary - 11/07/08
[WR] Mike Walker is upgraded to probable - Knee - 11/07/08
Did you like this article? Subscribe to our NFL news feed for the fastest updates delivered right to you - Click here to Subscribe
Posted: 11/20/08 12:11 PM ET