Can Bettors Trust Bortles? NFL Picks for Jaguars vs. Chargers

Jason Lake

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 3:26 PM UTC

Tuesday, Sep. 23, 2014 3:26 PM UTC

Have the sharps quit trying to make things work with the Jacksonville Jaguars? Or will they bite the bullet one more time now that Blake Bortles has arrived? The Week 4 NFL betting lines say it’s a toss-up.

Jason’s record after Week 2: 4-7 ATS, 1-2-1 Totals

Profit: minus-8.8 units

If you got burned by the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1, raise your hand. If you got burned by the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2, raise your other hand. Now don’t you look silly. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The football betting cognoscenti were all over the Jaguars as double-digit dogs (+10 away) in their season-opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, and although Jacksonville honked that one, many sharps saw enough good things from the Jags to pound them again with their NFL picks as 5-point puppies in Washington. Whoops.

Okay, you can put your arms down now. People were a lot more reticent to support Jacksonville in Week 3, and their fears were justified: The Jaguars got creamed 44-17 by the Indianapolis Colts (–6 away), leaving them as one of two NFL teams to start the 2014 campaign at 0-3 SU and ATS. But what if we told you that the “new and improved” Jags will be taking the field this Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS) as 13-point road dogs against the San Diego Chargers? Any takers? Anyone?

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Lucky Thirteen
Actually, it looks like the NFL betting world is evenly split on this hot-button issue. Our NFL consensus reports at press time show both sides getting 50 percent support in this matchup – although it appears Jacksonville is getting more money after opening at +14.5 (–130) on most NFL odds boards. That’s only a tiny move from +13 at the standard –110 vigorish, so don’t read too much into it, even though we’re crossing the magic Rubicon of 14 points.

It’s fitting that Jacksonville is such a divisive commodity at this point. There’s a lot to hate. The Jaguars have the worst Simple Rating System in the AFC at minus-39.1 SRS. They’re last in the conference in both offense (minus-18.3 SRS) and defense (minus-20.8 SRS). Half the team is injured or suspended. And yet… Jacksonville is getting 13 points this week. That’s enough points to choke a horse.


Green Bortles, Hanging on the Wall
Also: Blake Bortles. Jacksonville finally gave up on Chad Henne (80.7 passer rating) halfway through the Colts game, and as far as a lot of Jags fans are concerned, Bortles won the second half, 17-14. This year’s third-overall pick definitely had a better game than Henne, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Bortles threw a pair of interceptions to go with his two TD passes – Greg Toler took one of those picks back 47 yards to the house for Indianapolis. Overall, Bortles was slow with his decisions and inconsistent with his placement.

Ah, but what upside. Bortles used his mobility to avoid Indy’s pass rush, eating just one sack while picking up 30 yards on a couple of carries. He also ran the “fake spike” play to perfection late in the fourth quarter, finding Cecil Shorts III from 10 yards out for the final score of the day. Henne is a competent game-manager who deserves better, but even with all that green around his ears, Bortles posted an 82.5 passer rating in his NFL debut. He’s already better than Henne, just in a more high-risk, high-reward sort of way.

Unfortunately for us, Bortles doesn’t provide enough upside to make up for Jacksonville’s deficiencies, even with 13 points tacked on. However, we’re recommending you use San Diego for survivor pool picks only – if your particular contest format allows you to play the Chargers this week. Let’s see what Bortles can do with a full week to prepare before we gingerly step on the Jacksonville bandwagon.

The Five Stars

Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: SD

Defense/Special Teams: SD

Coaching: EVEN

Market Bias: JAX

Betting Line Value: JAX

Verdict: Pick ‘em

Free NFL Pick: Play the Chargers in qualifying survivor pools

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