MNF Matchup: Chargers @ JagsMonday, December 05, 2011
Monday Night Football
San Diego @ Jacksonville
For better or worse, the Jags are throwing the fate of their franchise behind Blaine Gabbert after ex-coach Jack Del Rio benched the rookie in Week 12. GM Gene Smith, who traded up to draft Gabbert this past April, was signed to a three-year extension last Tuesday. Interim coach Mel Tucker followed up by naming Gabbert his Week 13 starter. Luke McCown wouldn't have saved Jacksonville's last-ranked passing offense, but Gabbert certainly isn't the immediate answer. He will continue to struggle against San Diego's top-seven pass defense. ... It's not uncommon for NFL teams to surge after in-season coaching change. We've seen it before with Jim Haslett in the post-Scott Linehan era, and Jason Garrett's finish after Wade Phillips' 2010 firing. If it's going to happen in Jacksonville, it will almost certainly be because of Maurice Jones-Drew. Enjoying perhaps the best season of any running back in the league considering his situation, Jones-Drew ranks eighth at his position in fantasy scoring and has a favorable enough schedule to stay hot. MJD will finish the season facing San Diego (No. 26 run defense), Tampa Bay (No. 29), and Tennessee (No. 21) in three of his final four games. Expect 25-plus touches on Monday night.
Philip Rivers' lofty recent fantasy stats were not matching his poor on-field play, and more often than not in that kind of scenario the box scores begin catching up to the performance. Especially when the offense suddenly stops facing large deficits. Such was the case in last week's 16-13 loss to Denver, supposedly a passer-friendly matchup. Rivers still threw 36 times, but averaged a year-low 5.2 yards per attempt and took three more sacks behind an injury-wrecked offensive line. The matchup is again favorable, on paper, against a Jacksonville defense that has lost three of its top four cornerbacks (Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, William Middleton) to injured reserve over the past month. This is probably going to be another relatively close game, however, and not one that forces Rivers to flirt with 40 pass attempts. He's a low-end QB1 on Monday Night Football. ... Vincent Jackson has swapped mammoth efforts with clunkers week by week. He is now coming off a slow game, and "due" for a big one after getting shut down yet again by Champ Bailey in Week 12. V-Jax is an elite fantasy receiver play in this one.
Antonio Gates' forty time is probably closer to 5.0 than 4.5 at this stage of his career, but he is finding the end zone with frequency. Working in Gates' Week 13 favor is the fact that the Jaguars have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Start 'em. ... Malcom Floyd will return to the starting lineup on Monday night, moving Vincent Brown into a situational/third receiver role. Brown is no longer start-able in fantasy football, and Floyd would have to show he's capable of playing four full quarters unscathed before becoming a confident WR3 candidate. Floyd has battled a multitude of lower-body injuries this season, often leaving games early after first-half setbacks. He's in prove-it mode. ... Ryan Mathews is San Diego's feature back when healthy, and that notion was reinforced when he racked up 142 yards on a team-high 23 touches in Week 12 against Denver. Mike Tolbert got the rock 14 times, managing 63 yards. Off the injury report this week, Mathews is a high-end RB2 in Monday night's matchup with Jacksonville. Jaguars DEs Matt Roth (concussion) and Aaron Kampman (hamstring) are both listed as doubtful, and NT Terrance Knighton (ankle) is questionable after missing most of this week's practice reps. Mathews has 279 yards on his last 57 carries, good for a crisp average of 4.89 yards per tote. Tolbert is a low-end flex option.
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Jaguars 13
Gregg Rosenthal takes a look at the key players to start or sit on Monday night.