Pick Jaguars to Cover vs. Falcons in Last NFL Preseason

David Lawrence

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 6:01 PM GMT

Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 6:01 PM GMT

The Falcons were hurt last season because of the lack of an offensive line. Having sustained a big injury to a key lineman, they’ll take it easy on Thursday. They’re a four-point dog on the NFL odds.

Is There A Coaching Edge?
Mike Smith is the more established veteran coach. He’s a man who has made an NFC Championship Game appearance and come very close to making the Super Bowl. Entering this preseason, it’s true that Smith was 8-19 in preseason games entering this preseason, and Atlanta has a losing preseason record coming into this game. However, Smith has made it a point during the summer to tell his players that no matter how much money they might be making or when they were picked in the draft, they are waging open competitions for jobs and should not take their position for granted. This could very easily enable the Falcons to play with the kind of edge they need in this game. 

Gus Bradley is in his second preseason as an NFL head coach, so it’s harder to get a read on him not just as an overall head coach, but as a coach who is likely to win games in the preseason. Jacksonville Jaguars have had the same preseason as the Falcons, winning their first game but then losing the next two. Neither team has been explosive on offense in the preseason. Atlanta Falcons haven’t scored more than 17 points in a preseason game this year, and the Jaguars haven’t scored more than 19 points in the summer. If you’re looking for a really specific read and a clear angle on the coaching matchup in this game, you’re not likely to get it. 

 

Who Has The Edge In Quarterback Depth?
This part of the backdrop to Thursday night’s game is likely to favor the Jaguars, even though they are listed as underdogs in the NFL Odds. The thing to notice with Jacksonville and other bad teams is that in their final preseason game, they have less certainty about the quarterback spot for the first game of the regular season. In the regular season, you want to have a clear and established number one quarterback. This means that in the fourth and final preseason game, you can rest your starter and get a good, long look at your backup. For teams that aren’t good, though, they have to look at both of their quarterbacks to continue to get an idea of which man they want in the hot seat for week one in September. This should work to a bad team’s advantage in the final preseason game. Jacksonville and its quarterbacks, Chad Henne and Blake Bortles, have a lot more to prove. Matt Ryan of Atlanta should sit this game out, and T.J. Yates should split time with Sean Renfree. This leans to Jacksonville’s advantage. You should see a lot more urgency from the Jaguars’ two main quarterbacks.

 

Outlook
The quarterback factor isn’t always important in a final preseason game, but it sure is here. The Jaguars are going to attack this game in ways Atlanta isn’t likely to match, making them our NFL pick on Thursday's early game.
NFL Free Pick: Jaguars -4 at Pinnacle

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