Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Odds, Predictions and Preview (NFL Week 8)

Once again, football starts early (9:30 am EST) as this matchup takes place across the pond in Wembley England.

The 3-4 Philadelphia Eagles are most likely still in shock over their 17-21 fourth-quarter loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. Up 17-0 with 10:40 left to go in the game, the Eagles defense allowed Cam Newton’s Panthers to march down the field for a touchdown three series in a row. Philadelphia even had a chance for a come-back win, but with less than half a minute on the clock and on the Panthers’ 12-yard line, quarterback Carson Wentz had the ball knocked away and recovered by the Panthers.

The 2018 season has been hit-or-miss for the Eagles, losing three of the last four matchups, coming up short each time  by only four points or less. Like most NFL teams at this point in the season, the defending Super Bowl Champions are having to endure the injury bug, with five of their defensive players sitting out the game against the Panthers. That could be a major factor against the Jaguars, depending on who’s capable of suiting up after a short week.

Having lost four of their previous five games, the 3-4 Jacksonville Jaguars were only able to score a single touchdown in two of those losses and only two field goals in the other. They are coming off a 7-20 spanking by the Houston Texans where their only score was a single touchdown.

In the third quarter of that game, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone finally lost his patience with quarterback Blake Bortles (6 of 12 for 61 yards, no touchdowns and two lost fumbles) and replaced him with backup Cody Kessler, who is 0-8 as an NFL starter. Kessler did seem to add a spark as he led the team on a long touchdown drive, but an interception killed any chance for a Jags comeback. The big Week 8 question for Jacksonville is who will start under center, Bortles or Kessler.

If the Eagles win this matchup, they’ll move to 4-4 and stay within one-game of the current NFC East leaders, the Washington Redskins. But if the Jaguars come out on top, they’ll be 4-4 and remain a relevant threat in the AFC South.

Who’s favored to win this Week 8 Eagles-Jaguars matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Eagles and the Jaguars and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Eagles offense sputtering

The Eagles 19th ranked offense can score, puttin up 22-points per game in the season so far. However, they are just average when it comes to third downs, ranked 16th in the league in that category, having converted on just 39.2 percent of them.

Injuries have not helped the Eagles any offensively, with starting running back Jay Ajayi (torn ACL) on injured injured reserve since Week 6 and running back Darren Sproles (hamstring) sitting out Week 7. Backup backs Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Corey Clement didn’t help much against the Panthers, with Smallwood running 9 times for 32 yards, Adams 4 times for 17 yards, while Clement’s 8 runs produced only 6 yards, resulting in a pitiful .08 yards per run average.

The Eagles passing attack ranks 15th in the league. Against Carolina in Week 7, two out of three of Wentz’s top targets were tight ends, with Zach Ertz catching 9 balls for 138 yards and Dallas Goedert catching 4 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. Receivers Nelson Agholar and Alshon Jeffery aren’t even ranked in the top fifty most productive receivers, while Ertz ranks 6th overall with 618 total receiving yards.

They’ll face a Jaguars team with the second-best overall defense in the league, but who only rank 25th against the pass, so the Eagles receivers will have to step up if they expect to win.

The 2018 Jaguars offense struggling

The Jaguars offense is ranked 23rd, averaging 355.0 total yards per game. Bortles is tied for third most interceptions (8), is tied for 15th most sacks (14), and his 80.3 passer rating placing him at the bottom of the quarterback barrel.

It doesn’t help that star running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and tight end James O’Shaughnessy (hip) didn’t play in Week 7. The team is ranked 9th in 3rd down conversions, snagging a first down 44.1 percent of the time. They’re only able to score an average of 16.6 points per game, however, which won’t help them against a team that regularly puts up at least 6 more points than that per outing.

Coach Marrone has said he pulled Bortles in Week 7 to get the team’s attention, but he did not commit to backup Kessler going forward. He told the media that he’ll be continuing to evaluate the quarterback position this week.

One positive note for the Jags offense is the recent pickup of running back Carlos Hyde from the Cleveland Browns. Hyde, who was a workhorse for the Browns, has rushed for 114 times for 382 yards and 5 touchdowns, but that’s only 3.4 yards per carry. He can also catch the ball, having snagged 6 balls for 29 yards. He’ll be a welcome counter to the Jags’ 18th ranked passing game.

Eagles Defense ranks 14th in the league, Jaguars D ranks 2nd

The Eagles defense shut out the Panthers for three quarters of their Week 7 matchup, which is would be impressive had they not allowed Carolina to score touchdowns in three straight series in the fourth quarter. They’re ranked 2nd against the run, but only 24th against the pass, so expect the Jaguars to lean on their receiving corps for this one.

Their best chance for success is if they can get injured defensive tackle Haloti Ngata  (calf) and safety Corey Graham (hamstring) back in the starting lineup. Both were forced to sit out in Week 7.

The Jaguars defense has been relatively healthy and somewhat effective, especially against the pass, ranked first overall by allowing opponents to throw for only 179.7 passing yards per game. Where they are weak, however, is against the run, ranked 25th by allowing opposing rushers to gain an average of 121.9 yards per game. That’s good news against a team that has lost their two best running backs to injury.

The Jags’ defense has only intercepted 3 passes and have sacked opposing quarterbacks 15 times, both stats placing them in the bottom half of the league in those categories. Their All-Pro players – First-team defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback Jalen Ramsey plus Second-team linebacker Telvin Smith and cornerback A.J. Bouye, are all healthy and need to shut down the Eagles’ questionable offense if they hope to win.

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Philadelphia’s second-year punter, Cameron Johnston, signed as an undrafted free agent last season, has punted 32 times for a net average of 44.0 yards per punt, ranked 3rd in the NFL.

Jacksonville’s rookie punter, Logan Cooke, has punted 35 times for a net average of 38.0 yards per punt, ranked 25th in the NFL.

Philadelphia’s placekicker, Jake Elliott, promoted from the practice squad last season, has gone 11-for-15, his longest was a 46-yarder. He hasn’t missed an extra point attempt (15/15).

Jacksonville’s placekicker, Josh Lambo, is in his second NFL year and has gone 8-for-8, his longest was a 54-yarder. He hasn’t missed an extra point attempt (12/12).

Philadelphia’s punt returner, wide receiver Deandre Carter, is ranked 14th in the league in return yards. He’s returned 9 punts for 103 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 11.4 yards per return, his longest for 42 yards.

Jacksonville’s punt returner, wide receiver Dede Westbrook, is ranked 10th in the league. He’s returned 2 punts for 27 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 13.5 yards per return, his longest for 21 yards.

Eagles–Jaguars prediction and odds

The oddsmakers have the Eagles favored over the Jaguars by 3 with an over/under of 41.5.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:

Pete Prisco  goes with the under and has it Eagles 23, Jaguars 17

John Breech takes the under and predicts it Jaguars 20, Eagles 16