The New Orleans Saints are set to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first Thursday Night Football game of the season on October 19th. Today, we’re going to look at how the Saints matchup with the defending AFC South champions.
The Jaguars are coming off their first playoff win since the team nicknamed “Sacksonville” went to the AFC Championship in 2017. From 2018-2021, the Jags finished fourth in the AFC South every season before taking the crown in 2022.
In 2021, Jacksonville found their franchise QB, selecting Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the draft. Since then, Lawrence has earned the starting job and lead them to the third largest playoff comeback in NFL history before falling to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional round.
This year, Jaguar fans are as excited as they’ve been in years for this upcoming football season. With Doug Pederson calling plays and Lawrence managing the game, there’s a lot of reasons to think this team could make a run in the AFC playoffs.
But before they can even think about the playoffs, they have to get through the regular season. And that includes coming into New Orleans on a Thursday night to face off with Derek Carr and the Saints.
As said earlier, Jacksonville is led by Trevor Lawrence who broke onto the scene at the end of last season. After struggling in his rookie campaign, Lawrence bounced back with 4,113 yards, 25 TDs and eight interceptions in 2022. He is surrounded by offensive weapons that include Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and Travis Etienne who all had career years in 2022. He also adds a receiver the Saints are familiar with in Calvin Ridley, who is playing for the first time since being suspended for gambling in 2021. Their offense averaged 23.9 points per game last year, good enough for ninth in the NFL, and they’re looking to be even more explosive in 2023.
The defense on the other hand is still not as elite as they would like. They have some good young players such as Trevon Walker and Josh Allen, but they’ll need to continue to add talent to truly compete in the AFC.
The Jaguars have a first-place schedule and will play three AFC South games and battle with the Chiefs and the Bills before heading to New Orleans for the week seven matchup. On the other side, the Saints have a friendly schedule coming into this matchup, which will be by far their toughest of the year up to this point.
There’s a good chance the Jags enter this game with two or even three losses, but don’t let their record fool you, they’re going to be a tough out even in the Superdome.
This game should be a high scoring affair with both teams looking to have top-10 offenses in 2023. The additions of Derek Carr and a healthy Michael Thomas should get the Saints offense right back to the top-10 after a couple of down years. This could be a “who has the ball last” type of matchup.
Out of all the quarterbacks the Saints will face this season, Trevor Lawrence may be the best. Him and Derek Carr are both guys who can elevate an offense and can push the ball down the field.
Both teams also have good receiving corps. Calvin Ridley will give Christian Kirk another top-tier receiver to relieve some pressure off of him, but the Saints have a lot of depth at the position with Thomas, Olave, Shahid and A.T. Perry.
The Saints and Jags both have running backs who are great at catching passes out of the backfield. The only question for the Saints is will Kamara be available with his suspension looming. If Kamara is out, they will have to rely heavily on Kendre Miller and Jamaal Williams to produce in the backfield.
The good news for the Saints is their advantage on the defensive side of the ball. They have a lot more talent on that side of the ball than the Jags, and if they can play as well as they did in the back half of 2022, they could be a top-10 unit coming into this game.
Both teams will be on a short week, which could cause some key players to miss the game if they have any nagging injuries. Hopefully, we can see both teams at their best for this matchup, because it should be a fun one.
The Saints are 5-2 all time against the Jaguars and have won the last four matchups by an average of 12 points per game. Carr is 1-2 in his career against the Jags, but has passed for 726 yards, four touchdowns and 0 interceptions in those three games.
With all that being said, this will be one of the better Saints games all season. With one of the easiest schedules in the league, the Jags have the chance to be the hardest opponent the Saints face all year. The Jags will be the first team all season the Saints face that were .500 or better last season, so this game will be a tone-setter for what the rest of the season will look like for the Saints.
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