The Arizona Cardinals come into TIAA Bank Field with visions of defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Arizona is currently undefeated after victories over Tennessee and Minnesota. Quarterback Kyler Murray leads the high-flying Cardinals offense in the pass-happy air raid offensive scheme.
Arizona scored 38 points against Tennessee and 34 against Minnesota. Jacksonville’s point production is woefully behind the Cardinals’ output. This game will be a real stress test for the Jaguars defense.
The NFL named Murray as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Arizona ranks second in passing yards and averages 10.1 yards per reception. How will the Jaguars defense stop this offensive juggernaut?
First, key #1, Jacksonville will have to pressure and contain Murray all day long. He has completed 50 of 68 passes for 689 yards with seven touchdowns with three interceptions. Murray has run the ball ten times for 51 yards with two touchdowns. He is an elusive running quarterback.
The Jaguars will have to contain Murray inside the pocket. They can not afford to allow him to run away from the pass rush. Perhaps Myles Jack will shadow him to help corral the scrambler.
The second key to victory is, Shaquill Griffin must lock down DeAndre Hopkins. How many times did Hopkins burn the Jaguars as a Houston Texan, too many? Hopkins is a very clutch and steady receiver.
He has caught ten passes for 137 yards with three touchdowns. Most importantly, he has not dropped a pass in 2021. He moves the chains. Griffin has to limit his production.
The third key for a Jaguars victory is, winning the battle up front. Once again. Jacksonville will be facing a very tough and tenacious defensive front. Arizona is led by Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt. Both Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor have to play flawlessly each down.
One way to neutralize the pass rush is to get the ball out quickly with passes to James Robinson out of the backfield. Trevor Lawrence will not have time to sit in the pocket and wait for a receiver to get open. Perhaps the Jaguars will run the ball at Jones and seal the backside pursuit.
Currently, Arizona is a 7 point favorite to win the game. This seems like a low point spread considering the number of points Arizona has scored as opposed to the Jaguars point total. In reality, Jacksonville could turn their season around if they could steal a victory on Sunday.
Expect Arizona to prevail 36-17. Be sure to catch the current JJC podcast where Andre Moultry accurately discusses the Jaguars situation in each podcast episode.
Photo: Agnes Lopez for The New York Times