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What to know about the Falcons - Jaguars matchup for Week 16

Two disappointing teams meet with 5-9 records and offseasons of change ahead.

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Unless you love Gardner Minshew or are really attached to Dan Quinn, this game figures to be a little bit of a letdown after that impressive last second win against the 49ers. Nonetheless, we press on.

Falcons - Jaguars Side-by-Side

Atlanta is a middle-of-the-road team this year that could be one game above .500 or one game below if just a couple of things had broken their way. They have a slightly above average offense and a slightly below average defense on the season, making them a disappointment given expectations but no longer one of the worst teams in football.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, are probably about in the same boat. They’re below average in both offense and defense, though the offense has managed to slot in slightly above average in both passing and rushing yardage, and their pass defense is certainly capable enough. Had they not turned the reins over to Nick Foles for a couple of disastrous efforts, they may well have been closer to .500.

Falcons - Jaguars Matchup

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Falcons 5-9 15 11 4 30 25 20 23 16 21 20
Jaguars 5-9 27 20 14 15 23 24 14 29 27 13

The primary difference between these two teams is that the Jaguars have been a much better team on the ground and have done a nice job overall as a pass defense, which gives Atlanta clear mandate to stop the run and try to run the ball themselves. In this way it’s a similar matchup to Carolina, though without the quarterback absolutely murdering their chances to win the way Kyle Allen did against our favorite team.

It’s not clear that the Jaguars are that much worse than the Falcons, but certainly our guys have played at a higher level in the recent past. Without Nick Foles at quarterback, they have a better-than-puncher’s chance against Atlanta, though the Falcons are obviously riding high right now after surprising the 49ers.

How have the Jaguars changed?

This article will be much more interesting a year from now, given that Jacksonville appears poised to clean house from top to bottom. The way the Jaguars have bungled their stroke of luck in landing Gardner Minshew is something to behold, and with labor grievances and bad decisions piling up, everyone from Tom Coughlin to former Falcons personnel guy Dave Caldwell to Doug Marrone might be gone this spring.

Start with Minshew. The Jaguars shelled out huge money for Nick Foles in one of the most ill-advised moves of the offseason, Aside from Foles’ magical Super Bowl winning run and his outlandish 2013 season, when he put up 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions, he’s been a very average quarterback who has 44 touchdowns against 33 interceptions for his career. Smart teams pay for the body of work or huge potential, not Joe Flaccoesque clouds of fairy dust, but the Jaguars were desperate to move on from Blake Bortles and get a proven winner. They stumbled into undrafted free agent QB Minshew, who took over when Foles got hurt and played extremely well for a rookie, only to bench him for Foles for a short, disastrous stretch that completely knocked them out of contention.

In the offseason, the Jaguars have to find a taker for Foles and decide whether they want Minshew to be their franchise guy or just one of the league’s best backups.

There are additions who add a lot to this team’s long-term outlook, however, and still should make Jacksonville an attractive landing spot in a division that isn’t producing elite teams. Rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor and edge rusher Josh Allen have a ton of promise, tight end Josh Oliver looks interesting, and recent picks like DJ Chark have worked out very well. The Jaguars navigated limited cap space this offseason and didn’t do a good job of doing so—again, see Foles—but more change is to come.

What you need to know for Sunday

This one could go in countless directions and I would not be surprised. The way Atlanta played against San Francisco, they should be able to handle the Jaguars at home, but should hasn’t been good for much this season.

The Falcons have been abysmal against the AFC, going 1-10 in their last eleven games against the other conference. They’re 2-5 at home and 3-4 on the road, with their two most impressive wins both happening while they were away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They’ve also rarely strung together wins this year, with two two-game winning streaks and no three game streaks, and they’ll head into this game down Takk McKinley after losing Calvin Ridley and Desmond Trufant the week before. There are plenty of reasons to think this could go sideways on them.

Still, they should win it. The Jaguars squeaked one out over the Raiders last weekend, but that took a borderline-legendary meltdown from Oakland in their final home game. Before that, they had lost five games in a row, and every single one of them was a blowout loss, which tells you everything about how well they’ve played of late. Getting Minshew back in for Foles helps a great deal and they still have nasty pieces on both sides of the ball, but if you were inclined to argue that the Falcons are the better team, I would be inclined to agree with you.

I’m predicting a narrow win, which isn’t going to please the already unhappy tanking crowd. The Falcons are setting up nicely to get stomped in their final game of the season against the Bucs, which would be peak Falconing.