Falcons vs Jaguars Game Preview
The Falcons visit Jacksonville for the first time since 2015 where they came away with a 23-17 victory. Both teams are reeling from almost defeating the Patriots but are still primed and ready to do damage in 2018.
Atlanta will be in their second season under Steve Sarkisian and will look to bounce back following a down year on offence. Jacksonville gets a tougher schedule but still have the same dominant defence. This is an early preview of a potential Super Bowl.
The Falcons went from being the top offence in 2016 to middle-of-the-pack thanks to a switch in offensive coordinators. Sarkisian has been a poor replacement for Kyle Shanahan but at least Atlanta got better in the offseason.
Atlanta used its first-round pick to draft Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. He’ll be an insurance policy for Julio Jones and makes the offence more prolific. Pair that with a growing defence and the Falcons will once again be championship threats.
As Atlanta got better, Jacksonville didn’t. The Jaguars lost talent on both sides of the ball and despite drafting players who could fit in, a regression is to be expected, especially with the rest of the AFC South getting healthy and improving.
So long as Blake Bortles is the Jags’ quarterback, their upside is limited. Their defence is elite but can only win them so many games. Jacksonville is good but they have a tough season ahead.
The Falcons are a much better unit overall. Including their second teams, they are deeper and have more on offence. The Jaguars will be edgy as the home team but will struggle to score. Their defence will have to stand on its head and not during preseason they won’t.
Falcons vs Jaguars Head-to-Head Records
This series is even at three wins apiece. Both franchises are relatively young and first met in 1996, the Jaguars’ second season. The Jaguars won the first two games and Atlanta has won the last two including their first win in Jacksonville, a 23-17 comeback in 2015.
Most of their games have been close but the Falcons blew out the Jags 41-14 in 2011. Atlanta is unbeaten under the Matt Ryan era although they almost beat him in their most recent meeting. But the difference between Ryan and whatever quarterback Jacksonville has rolled out has been stark.
Scoring has generally been low. Only the 1999 Jags and the 2011 Falcons scored over 23 points throughout the series. Some games get ugly too with plenty of turnovers. The defence and the running game have dominated. No game has seen a quarterback hit 300 yards in passing.
These trends should continue, at least in the next game or two. Both teams have strong defences and great running backs and should mostly be the same until their next meeting in 2019.
Atlanta Falcons Recent History
There isn’t much to say about the Falcons as a franchise. They won a grand total of six games in their first three seasons and didn’t make the postseason until 1978, twelve years after. They would make an unexpected Super Bowl run in 1998 but would lose to John Elway’s Broncos.
The Falcons would make sporadic playoff appearances and win a few division titles but wouldn’t string together consecutive winning seasons until 2008, the beginning of the Matt Ryan era. They would also finally make consecutive playoff appearances during the 2010 to 2011 seasons.
Atlanta would return to the Super Bowl in 2016 but would want to forget about as they blew a 25-point lead. Led by stars like Ryan, Jones, and linebacker Vic Beasley, the Falcons have many more opportunities to redeem themselves.
Jacksonville Jaguars Recent History
Jacksonville has been pretty quiet as a franchise but they’ve had some sense of stability. Tom Coughlin led the team to the AFC Championship game in just their second year and rattled off three consecutive seasons with at least 11 wins including a franchise-best 14-2 record in 1999.
Coughlin stepped off after 2002 and under Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars would be decent but only make two playoff appearances. Following his dismissal in 2011, the Jaguars would spend five miserable seasons losing at least 11 games each. But the Doug Marrone era at the end of 2016 signalled a better change.
The Jags would return to the playoffs with a vengeance in 2017 winning their division for the first time this century. They would come up short to the Patriots but have a solid foundation and should see more playoff trips down the road.
Atlanta Falcons Outlook
The Falcons can win not just one Super Bowl but many. That’s how good the team is. Their offence is deep and they can attack from almost any position. The offensive line is among the best in the division and the acquisition of Ridley gives the Falcons another potent receiver.
Defensively, they are still just getting better. Beasley had an off-year in 2017 but he is only just 26 and still hitting his prime. Keanu Neal was a revelation at safety in 2017 and Deion Jones is a solid anchor in the middle of their linebacking corps.
What Atlanta needs to figure out is their coaching. Sarkisian drew pedestrian plays in 2017 and the Falcons struggled as a result. If he continues to drive his Ferrari like a Corolla, he’ll be run out of town. The Falcons need to make another deep playoff run or it’ll be another house cleaning.
Jacksonville Jaguars Outlook
While Atlanta remains limited by their unimaginative play-calling, the Jaguars will be held back by their uninspired quarterback. Bortles has the potential to be an elite signal caller but is content to just get by with his abilities. That works until Jacksonville needs him to elevate the team like when they face the Pats or a playoff team.
The offence still has the benefit of a Pro Bowl-talent like Leonard Fournette but that’s pretty much it. Their offensive line is patchy and they lost their best receivers although they drafted D.J. Clark late in the second. Defence is an entirely different story as the Jags got slightly better.
They lost long-time linebacker Paul Posluszny but are getting back blue-chip talents like Taven Bryan at defensive tackle and Ronnie Harrison at safety. And they’re only depth players. Their defence sent six players to the Pro Bowl in 2017 including three from the defensive line and both of their corners. If Jacksonville can uplift their offence, they will be a Super Bowl contender.
With preseason winding down, the first team and second team will get a few more reps. This benefits the Falcons greatly as they are just more stacked on offence than the Jags. Ryan, Jones, and running back Devonta Freeman will do serious damage with their limited time.
But the Jags will match them with their defence, which is solid up until their second team. Jacksonville added plenty of young talent as backups including Bryan, Harrison and Clark who could be elevated to the first team if they wow during the offseason.
While both defences could mean cancelling each other out, the Jaguars’ offence is just bare. They are already lacking in their first unit and will be grasping at straws when it comes to their second-teamers. They will need someone to step up if they are to have a better chance at winning.
The Falcons should roll into the EverBank Field and slap the Jaguars’ with another home loss.