Saints vs Jaguars Game Preview
An unstoppable force meets an immovable object when the prolific New Orleans Saints face the suffocating Jacksonville Jaguars. The Saints have long been one of the NFL’s top offensive teams and the Jaguars recently became a defensive juggernaut.
There’s been a culture change in New Orleans and the once pass-happy offence now features a more complete attack with the emergence of the running game and they’ll need it against Jacksonville.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints came back in a big way last season thanks to an improved running game and defence. Drew Brees saw his passing numbers drop because he didn’t need to throw as much. New Orleans finished 11-5, their best record in four years.
They haven’t been able to string winning seasons since the start of the decade but they’ll break that trend. This is a Super Bowl-caliber team and they nearly made the NFC Championship game if it wasn’t for a screw-up. Expect the Saints to keep rolling.
Jacksonville is a different story from New Orleans. These Jaguars came from seemingly out of nowhere. New coach Doug Marrone, along with additions to the defence, propelled the team to their first winning season in 11 years.
Even if the passing game is suspect thanks to quarterback Blake Bortles and a lack of quality targets, the Jaguars got everything else covered: great runners, stout defence, and a group of guys who play with intensity. These Jags are a new AFC power.
It will be a well-balanced New Orleans team attacking the Jaguars in all fronts. Though Tom Savage is no Drew Brees, he’s a capable quarterback and will still be coached by Sean Payton’s sly crew. Jacksonville will focus on a smash-and-dash approach: stop the Saints and bleed them out with the running game.
Saints vs Jaguars Head-to-Head Records
New Orleans and Jacksonville have only faced each other six times beginning in 1996. This was the Jaguars’ sophomore season and they were already better than the woeful Saints although they lost to them 13-17 in a tightly-contested affair with little scoring.
The Saints lead the Jags 4-2 overall and have won the last three meetings. The last time Jacksonville won came after one of the most memorable finishes in NFL history. New Orleans needed a win late in the 2003 season to keep their season alive.
Down 13-20 with seconds to go, the Saints scored a miracle touchdown using nothing but a series of laterals. This put the score to 19-20 and all they needed was the extra point attempt. Unfortunately, kicker John Carney missed the kick and the Saints were eliminated.
With both teams now two of the NFL’s top dogs, any meeting between the two should produce some of the best football from both sides of the field.
New Orleans Recent History
Before the Payton and Brees era in 2006, the Saints were one of the NFL’s sorriest franchises. In nearly 40 years as a franchise, the Saints only had five playoff appearances and one playoff win. Since then, they’ve won one Super Bowl (2009) and have won at least one game in five of their six playoff appearances.
The Saints returned to contender status in 2017 but had consecutive 7-9 seasons sandwiched between that and their last winning season. The hiring of Dennis Allen as defensive coordinator in 2015 started to improve their defence and the emergence of running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara further pushed them.
Brees is now 39 but looks capable of playing till his early 40s. With him under centre and the new-and-improved team around him, this Saints team could win another Lombardi trophy.
Jacksonville Jaguars Recent History
The Jaguars are a young franchise but a pretty steady one. They have been dreadful in the years before 2017 having losing records in all but one season (they went 8-8) for over a decade. The franchise underwent a brief turmoil going through four head coaches between 2011 to late 2016 when they hired Marrone.
The hiring was one of their best moves as Marrone awakened the sleeping giant. Monstrous pass rusher Calais Campbell became a catalyst for the Jags’ defence when they signed him in 2017. The already-formidable unit lacked that killer pass rush that Campbell provided and all the rest seemed to follow.
Star running back Leonard Fournette was drafted in 2017 and gave the Jags the superstar on offence. But their passing game will be their weakness. Bortles needs to improve and it’ll be tough when they just lost their top receiver. He is what will make or break this team.
New Orleans Saints Outlook
Fantasy players best avoid Brees in fantasy because gone are the days where the two-time Offensive Player of the Year would rack up 5,000 yards and 40 TDs. It’s not because he can’t do it anymore, it’s because he doesn’t need to thanks to the running game and an improved defence.
The Saints further added to their defence in drafting defensive end Marcus Davenport in the first round. But they also bolstered the offence adding tight end Benjamin Watson and pieces to the offensive line, which is a bit thin on the inside.
Kamara is a new age running back and they need to add more guards to continue opening up the running game. Provided he and the key players stay healthy, the Saints will continue being NFC South favourites and Super Bowl contenders.
Jacksonville Jaguars Outlook
On one hand, the Jaguars have one of the best defences in the league and have a superstar running back who perfectly compliments it. They made the playoffs and even upset the Steelers. On the other hand, they might’ve gotten a bit lucky thanks to injuries to their division rivals and an easy schedule.
Heading to the next seasons, the Jaguars won’t “sneak up” on teams anymore. Their division will also get healthier and will improve. And Bortles doesn’t appear like he’s going to get better on top of losing pieces to their passing game. The Jaguars defence is great but they won’t be able to carry this team forever.
It’s possible that Jacksonville becomes a perennial Super Bowl threat but it’s also equally possible they miss the playoffs after they struggle offensively and the division catches up to them. Not necessarily a boom or bust team but expect some rough patches with this team.
Savage leads the Saints offence heading to the EverBank Field in Jacksonville while the Jaguars roll out Cody Kessler, fresh off a trade from the Browns. Neither quarterback will be dropping any pants but they may not need to as the Saints and Jags are better in other areas.
The Saints have a more balanced offence and have more room to adjust depending on what situation they’re put in. If they go up early, they could pound the rock and run the clock. They just signed Terrance West from Baltimore, who could be their lead back in the preseason.
If the Saints fall behind, they have more depth from the passing game to try to catch up. But Jacksonville will have to play as frontrunners. They have some depth at running back and added pieces on defence so they’ll excel when they have to protect the lead. But if they have to play catchup, they don’t have the same personnel in the passing game as the Saints.
New Orleans’ versatility gives them a bigger edge in this case. Jacksonville still has a solid shot to dictate the pace if they start better but the Saints are better overall and would be easier to count on in this spot.