This will be a tough game. Despite their two embarrassing losses to Texans in the past month, you can make the case that the Jags are actually better than their 5-4 record would indicate. Their DVOA of 19.3% ranks 7th in the NFL.

(For those of you who don’t know what DVOA is, you can read my layman’s explanation of it by clicking here. If you’re not convinced, the important thing to keep in mind is that a team’s DVOA is actually more predictive of future winning percentage than a team’s win-loss record. Obviously there are exceptions, and obviously it’s easy to point to these exceptions to discredit the stat, but it really is worth learning about if you’re a serious fan. It’s on a very understandable scale [-30% = horrific, 30% = amazing, and then for defense it’s reversed], and best of all, it accounts for contextual factors like opponent and situation.)

But anyway, back to the Jags, this is yet another tough game – Tampa and Houston were nice, but it’s pretty much back to the gauntlet from here on out. The Jags are coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder from last week and needing a win to keep pace with the Chiefs for the last AFC playoff spot. With the return of Colonel Tom, in front of a Monday Night crowd, we need to get back on our horse and play a really sound game (which we haven’t really done since the Dallas Monday night game) if we expect to win.

 

Offense:

Fortunately, the Giants banged-up D doesn’t have too much to worry about in this game: the Jaguars offense is shitty. Overall, their offensive DVOA stands at -7.0%, which ranks them 22nd in the league.

Their offense hasn’t been so bad all year: after they thumped the Jets 41-0 in Week 5 to pull their record to 3-2, their DVOA for the year was a slightly above average 3.3%. But since then, over the past four games, it has managed to slip 10 whole points.

The biggest single factor in their recent offensive ineptitude? The play of quarterback David Garrard, who, despite the fact that the organization seems to favor him over Leftwich, is actually not very good.

As Michael David Smith points out, Garrard ranks 38 out of the 39 in individual DVOA among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 60 passes. It’s not like Leftwich was any great shakes – his DVOA was -7.4% — but Garrard, at -34.6%, has been perfectly awful. To put it into perspective, Eli, who people have been killing all week, has a DVOA of 9.3%.

Garrard can move though: it’s too bad that we won’t have Strahan and Osi, and Joseph and ‘Nuke will have to do a good job staying disciplined. Pro Football Prospectus summed up Garrard succinctly in their annual book: “Garrard is amazingly elusive, easily dodging five or six pass rushers and sprinting out of tackles before overthrowing his receiver by five yards.”

Not only is Garrard pretty bad, but so are the receivers. Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and Ernest Wilfork are all big, toolsy guys with tons of potential, but the Jags have really struggled to replace Jimmy Smith.

(Speaking of Jimmy Smith, here’s how Pro Football Prospectus eulogized his underrated career:

“The question now is whether or not Smith will make the Hall of Fame. His raw totals of 862 catches and 12,887 yards measure up well. He currently ranks seventh in all-time receptions, but he will probably be passed by his former running-mate Keenan McCardell as well as Isaac Bruce and Rod Smith. In his prime, Smith was more dangerous than all of them. Still, the odds of enshrinement are not in his favor. Smith’s low profile and Jacksonville’s limited postseason success will work against him. Either way, those of us who got to watch Smith over the years are simply thankful for the opportunity to observe his artistry and the dignified way he carried himself on the field. He will be missed [not least of all by this year’s Jaguars].)”

But for a good take on the ineptitude of the current Jags receivers, read this AOL Fanhouse blog post, appropriately titled, “Jaguars Receivers: Big, but Bad.”

It is Garrard and these three physically gifted but…not good at football receivers who have combined to give the Jaguars a -15.6% passing DVOA heading into this game, which places them 23rd in the league. Of course, Rex Grossman and Muhsin Muhammad shredded our secondary (Corey Webster) last week, so you never know, but we can say that it’s not likely that the G-Men – who have a pass Defensive DVOA of -12.4%, good for 5th in the league (Remember, on defense, negative numbers are good!) – will have too much of a problem with this group.

The Jags running game is a little more competent though – It’s DVOA of 0.9% means that it’s slightly above average.

Fred Taylor is healthy and is having a pretty good year – he is 13th in the league with 696 yards, and 9th in the league with his healthy 4.7 yards per carry

His backup, Maurice Jones-Drew, has chipped in with 331 yards at an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Expect Jones-Drew, who is Joe Morris-esque at 5-7, 215, to get most of the goal line carries.

Of course, our run D is really awesome – its DVOA of -17% ranks it 6th in the league.

(There was a period in the Bears game where it looked like Thomas Jones was slicing through our defense at will, and it’s understandable that people remember this stretch because this is when the game got out of hand, but it’s important to realize that, for the most part, the G-Men actually did a good job containing the Bears ground game.

Yes, Jones broke 100 yards, but he averaged only 3.8 yards per carry. If you take away that big 26-yard run before the half, he averaged a measly 2.4 yards.)

But anyway, according to the ESPN scouting report, the Jags prefer running to the inside and to the left. Which means they’ll be running right at Kiwanuka, our left defensive end. The rookie has to hold his ground.

 

Defense

The Jags D is a whole different story. It’s about as good as their offense is bad – and then some. It’s DVOA of -25.4% ranks it 2nd in the league, just a shade behind the Bears.

Despite numerous injuries, it has been consistently dominant. Check out this blog post by the Fanhouse: Basically, they’ve had to substitute all kinds of guys all year, but they haven’t missed a beat.

They are excellent in both run and pass. Their run DVOA of -16.0% is basically the same as that of the Giants. This is a tough team to run on, though considering that Tiki was able to break a few against the Bears, don’t rule out a little Tiki magic tonight.

(He keeps on saying that the hand is fine. I’ll be more comfortable about that after the game. I mean, what’s he gonna do? If he says, “Yeah, it’s a little tender and a little bit of a concern,” the Jags defenders are just gonna slap the shit out of it. I mean, they’re gonna do that anyway, but still. This is a legitimate concern.)

Against the pass they are absolutely outstanding, ranking 2nd in the league with a DVOA of -34.7. Their 12 interceptions ties them for 4th in the league. (For the record, the Giants have 10 picks, though I think Fred Robbins has half of them.)

It’s their excellent corners that make their pass defense work. Rashean Mathis is one of the best in the business, and at 6-1, 195, he has the size to respectably hold his own against Plax. He has six picks this year. (Eli has be really, really careful. The obvious solution, of course, is to draw up a game-plan that utilizes Shockey!)

Another guy playing at a high level is defensive end Bobby McCray, who kind of came out of nowhere this year to post six sacks. McCray’s a speed-rusher, and the fact that he’s matched up against Whitfield is a concern.

But for the G-Men, it’ll be nice to get Eli out of New York and into the warmer climes of Florida. Hopefully he can have his first good game in a while, and we can get this thing rolling again towards Glendale. Beating a tough Jags team in their place on Monday night would re-establish us as an elite team.