The Jacksonville Jaguars host the Miami Dolphins tonight to kickoff Week Three National Football League action. The Jaguars, who opened the season with an upset win at home against the Indianapolis Colts before losing a close one last Sunday in Tennessee to the highly regarded Titans, are looking to become the surprise team of 2020.
Last week, at our Saturday afternoon handicapping session, a couple of people I work with had vastly different opinions about the Jaguars prospects. Kevin thought the Jaguars caught Indianapolis in a vulnerable favorite role to get their first week road upset, and Paul introduced the idea of considering the Jaguars might be good this year.
While Kevin pitched taking the Titans at home and laying the points, Paul thought the better side of last week’s game in Tennessee was taking the points with the Jaguars.
I have respect for both these men, and chose to not take a side in the Jaguars/Titans contest while we further evaluated their actual strengths. In truth, the Titans are a “go against” team for me this year based on their strong finish in 2019 in a pattern that more often than not leads to a losing point spread record the following season.
As the game played out, they were both right. The Titans did win the game, but the Jaguars appeared much improved and did take the point spread decision in Nashville while getting a touchdown on the line and losing by a field goal, 33-30.
So, are the Jaguars much improved this year?
Jacksonville was a playoff team just a few seasons back, but after Black Bortles proved to be a bust as a franchise quarterback, the Jaguars dropped off the charts last year. Improving on the dismal season they experienced in 2019, sinking to the bottom of the standings in the AFC South Division, is a near certainty. But, to move up to contender status and a surprise playoff berth may be a little more than we can expect.
Although, not more than Paul expects.
A win over the Colts and a competitive game versus the Titans bodes well for Jacksonville. And tonight, they meet a Miami team that has to be plotted below them in expected win totals.
The Dolphins come to town off a pair of losses to open their 2020 campaign. They lost to long time AFC East Division nemesis New England on opening day, and got clipped last Sunday in their home opener against the highly regarded Bills.
While the Dolphins and Jaguars only have one straight up win between them, they do combine for a 3-1 point spread record.
With the Dolphins, we have a team that is building towards a bright future that appears in no hurry this season to get ahead of their development. With the Jaguars, we have a team that dropped down so dramatically the past couple years they appear hungry to surge forward behind their colorful quarterback, Gardner Minshew II.
Those factors lean to Jacksonville, but the bigger question is whether they are yet ready to carry the load of being a bet-on favorite. Nearly 70% of the bets on this game are backing the home team, and the books have moved off the opening point spread to now favoring the Jaguars by three points. That throws a red flag in backing the Jaguars tonight, and the toughest time for a young team to win is when they are expected to and carrying the load of points on the spread.
Paul may be right, the Jaguars may be a lot better than most people thought before this season opened two weeks ago. But I’m not ready to lay points in a game between two teams that have built their 3-1 point spread mark while kicking off all four of their games as underdogs.
I don’t want the Dolphins tonight, and I’m not interested in laying points with the Jaguars.