The Jacksonville Jaguars play host to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon from TIAA Bank Field. In a game of two teams who seem to be going in opposite directions, the Cardinals enter with a 2-0 record, while the Jaguars are still searching for their first win in the Urban Meyer era, sitting at 0-2. The Cardinals' young core has electrified fans in the early going but the Jaguars are still looking for their group to find their feet in the NFL, which is an understandable learning curve.
The Cardinals have won each of the last three meetings between the two teams but haven't met since 2017 when obviously both squads looked quite a bit different. The Cardinals would love to give Trevor Lawrence a rough game as a welcome gift to the league and because Arizona has to travel across the country for an early start, it could even the playing field slightly. Expect a great game as NFL games have seemed to be this year and for something to give between an undefeated and winless team.
Line Movements & Weather
The Cards have gone from -2.5 way up to -7.5 or even eight, depending on the sportsbook you frequent most. That is consistent with the fact that Arizona has garnered 86% of the bets this week.
The OU line has gone from 49.5 up to 50.5, 51, or 51.5, depending on where you shop, with the Over snatching up 60% of the bets.
Gametime Weather: Sunny skies with temps in the lower 80s.
Cardinals Look To Avoid First LoseArizona has been an interesting team through just two games on the season and despite being 2-0, some aren't so sure of what to expect. In the opener, they traveled to Tennessee to easily take down the Titans in one of the most impressive performances of the opening week. In a homecoming in week two, many expected them to roll through the Vikings, only to barely escape when it was all said and done. On paper, the Jaguars look like a team that the Cardinals should have no issues taking down but the fact that they have to travel back to the East Coast could make present a challenge. The injury report has been pretty clean so far for the Cardinals heading into Sunday's game. Linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) is questionable, while cornerback Marco Wilson (ankle) is in a similar boat. While neither player should make or break the Cardinals' chances on Sunday, limited depth is never a good thing when going on the road.
🗣 "Kyler Murray... You are ridiculous!" pic.twitter.com/ynHdbTDnA5— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 21, 2021
Arizona's offense quickly looks like it could end up being one of the best in the NFL. They rank 2nd heading into week three in points per game and have an offense that goes toe-to-toe with anyone else. Kyler Murray is the obvious leader, especially with his dual-threat ability. He's tossed for 689 yards in just two games, with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. It helps to have one of the best wide receivers in the league by his side. Deandre Hopkins has ten catches and three touchdowns thus far but actually isn't even the team's leading receiver. That title goes to Rondale Moore, the electric speedster out of Purdue. He only has one touchdown, but has added 182 yards in just two games and helps take quite a bit of pressure off of Hopkins. Chase Edmonds and James Conner seem to fire a nice duo together in the backfield as well and as each week passes, it seems more and more difficult to see anyone slowing them down.
Defensively, Arizona slowed down Tennessee easily in the season opener, but last week's game left quite a bit to be desired. They allowed over 30 points to the Vikings and it's not as if Minnesota is an offensive juggernaut. In their opening game, their pass rush was unstoppable and they'll look for that to be the same story on Sunday against the Jaguars. Their front seven is far too strong for what Jacksonville has on the offensive line and the Cardinals should be able to get to Lawrence pretty easily throughout the game. Even though their secondary hasn't been the strongest this year, their ability in the pass rush won't give Lawrence enough time to pick apart the defense. Expect the Jaguars to struggle to move the ball as the Cardinals' defense doesn't end up staying on the field for long.
Out - OL Joshua Miles, LB Dennis Gardeck, and DE Jordan Phillips
Questionable - WR DeAndre Hopkins, LB Devon Kennard, DB Marco Wilson, and OL Kelvin Beachum
Jags Searching For AnswersThe Jaguars have lost 17 straight games overall and despite the new faces around the franchise, that streak doesn't seem like it will end on Sunday. Meyer continues to struggle to push the right buttons, while the learning curve for Lawrence has been steep. Add that to a roster without much talent in general and you're left with a team that very well could be winless for weeks and months to come. The Jags rank near the bottom of the NFL in both points per game and points allowed per game and even though they'll be at home, Jacksonville is far from being one of the toughest places to play in the league. From an injury perspective, the preseason loss of Travis Etienne Jr. (foot) continues to hamper the offense and the recent addition of Laviska Shenault Jr. (shoulder) as day-to-day isn't ideal. The defense has the more pressing concerns, as cornerbacks C.J. Henderson (hip) and Tre Herndon (knee) are both day-to-day and without them, Jacksonville could have a long day on the defensive side of things.
Sunday’s best shots #DUUUVAL— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 20, 2021
Jacksonville's offense ranks 27th in the league in points per game but has made a strong commitment towards the passing game. They rank sixth in the league in passing attempts per game and 31st in rushing attempts per game. More of a focus on establishing the ground game could be helpful but given the lack of depth in the backfield, Meyer's hands might be tied. Lawrence is the quarterback of the future and while there's no reason to sound the alarm, he does need to improve. He's only 42 of 84 on the season and has more interceptions than touchdowns. James Robinson hasn't been helpful either, only rushing for 72 yards in two games as the leading rusher. The Jags are in desperate need of a more balanced offense and without that changing, they'll have a hard time keeping pace with the Cardinals on Sunday.
Defensively, they're allowing over 400 yards a game and 30 points per game. Considering Arizona is averaging 464 yards per game on their own, they shouldn't have any issues moving the ball. Both quarterbacks they've faced this year have a dual-threat nature to their game and with Murray being the same way, it's an unfortunate matchup for a team looking for an easier game. Jacksonville especially struggles to stop the air attack and given the depth at wide receiver for the Cardinals and their commitment to a high-tempo offense, Jacksonville will be in for a world of pain when their defense takes the field on Sunday in what could be their worst matchup of the season.
Out - TE James O'Shaughnessy, OT Walker Little, and WR Tavon Austin
Doubtful - DB C.J. Henderson
Questionable - DL Roy Robertson-Harris and DB Tre Herndon
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
With Arizona heading to Jacksonville on Sunday, the only question seems to be how much the Cardinals will win by, not if they will win. Going across the country for a road game for the second time in three weeks isn't ideal but the Cardinals are more than built for this type of matchup. The Jaguars are dealing with injuries to two of their cornerbacks and even with them healthy, were allowing nearly 400 yards of offense through the air to opponents. Given all the weapons that Murray has at his disposal, he should have a massive game, making easy work of Jacksonville's inexperienced defense. Add in a balanced effort by Arizona's running backs and Jacksonville will definitely struggle to get off of the field. On the defensive side, few teams get as much pressure on the quarterbacks as the Cardinals do and the Jags will struggle to pick that up and give Lawrence enough time in the pocket. Given their firm stance on being a pass-first offense, Arizona should be able to force a few turnovers and really have their way with Jacksonville on both sides. Expect a big game from the Cardinals offense and defense and the Jaguars to be left looking for answers for the third straight week as Arizona easily covers in this one.
Full-Game Total Pick
Even though the Cardinals have played some high-scoring games this season, heading out to the East Coast will present some challenges. A slow start will be expected given the early kickoff and given the potential blowout nature of the game, a low-scoring second half could be expected as well. For the Jags, their inability to move the ball consistently is an issue and the Cardinals pass rush will have their way in slowing down the offense and keeping Lawrence rushed in the pocket. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Arizona, the under is 6-0 in their last six games as a road favorite, is 10-1 in their last 11 road games, is 5-1 in their last six games after allowing more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game, and is 5-1 in their last six games following an ATS loss. For the Jags, the under is 4-0 in their last four games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game and is 5-1 in their last six home games against a team with a winning road record.