Lions vs. Jaguars 2012 game preview: Detroit favored in clash of cats

Leon Halip

The Jaguars have lost four in a row and enter the game as one of three teams with just one win, while the Lions can get back to .500 for the first time since Week 2.

After three straight losses buried the Lions in the NFC North standings, they have begun the climb out with wins in two of their last three games including a Week 8 win over the Seahawks that required last-minute Matt Stafford-heroics. The Jaguars haven't done any climbing of their own and enter the Week 9 matchup on a four-game losing streak.

Despite the losing streak, the Jaguars fans have some reasons to be somewhat optimistic, though, as Blaine Gabbert played the best game of his career in Week 8 and nearly managed to lead the team to an upset win over the Packers. Regardless, the Lions are the favorites in Week 9 and justifiably so, as their offense that ranks No. 2 in total yardage will go against a Jacksonville defense that ranks No. 25.

Meet the Jaguars

The Jaguars will again be without their top offensive talent, as Maurice Jones-Drew will sit out another game due to a foot sprain. In his place will be Rashad Jennings, who totaled 100-plus yards from scrimmage in a second consecutive game for the Jaguars in Week 8. With 59 yards rushing and 56 yards receiving, he was part of Gabbert's first career 300-yard passing game. Also part of the big game for Gabbert was Cecil Shorts III, as the second-year receiver caught eight passes for 116 yards.

On defense, the Jaguars may have big problems with injuries as both starting cornerbacks have missed practice time during the week due to injury. While Derek Cox has been the best defensive back for the Jaguars, when healthy, Rashean Mathis has been particularly effective against the Lions during his career. In two career games against the Lions, Mathis has four interceptions. However, Mathis is listed as out for Sunday's game, while Cox is listed as questionable for play against the Lions.

Meet the Lions

The Lions will be led into the game by Stafford, who needs just 52 yards passing on Sunday to become the second-quickest player to ever reach 10,000 yards. With 9,948 yards in 36 career games, only Kurt Warner accumulated yardage quicker, but not by much, as Warner managed to cross the 10,000-mark during career game No. 36. The favorite target for Stafford has been Calvin Johnson, and the two have combined for some strong numbers against the AFC. In his past four games against the conference, Johnson has 29 receptions for 605 yards and five touchdowns.

It will not be the first meeting against Gabbert for Ndamukong Suh. The former Nebraska defensive tackle gave the former Missouri quarterback a high ankle sprain after a crushing sack that forced a fumble during the 2009 NCAA season. With 17.5 career sacks since joining the league in 2010, tied for the most by any defensive tackle during that time period, Suh hasn't stopped crushing quarterbacks and will look to do so again in his first matchup against Gabbert since Big 12 play. He may need to, though, to help out a secondary that could be missing both Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey on Sunday.

Local Takes: Jaguars

Alfie Crow from Big Cat Country says this about the Jaguars' recently emerging pass rush:

The pass rush still needs some work, but any kind of improvement in that area is a good thing, regardless of how it comes. Against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, they'll need to be sure to bring the pressure and hit Matt Stafford, as it looks like the team could be without their two starting cornerbacks once again.

Local Takes: Lions

Sean Yuille from Pride Of Detroit says this about the recent struggles of Calvin Johnson:

It is important to note that Johnson isn't the only player on offense that has been struggling. The Lions as a whole this season have been pretty bad offensively, including Stafford. He got things turned around against Seattle, but that's only one game in a season filled some bad ones. Just as Stafford did on Sunday, Johnson could come out this week and snap out of his funk with a big day, but the important thing is to be consistently good.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Big Cat Country and Pride Of Detroit, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@AlfieBCC

@PrideOfDetroit

@RyanOHalloran

@TTwentyman

Prediction

From the Week 9 picks:

The only thing that would make this game entertaining is if Tim Tebow lined up at quarterback for the Jaguars. But no, that's not happening. All of the Lions losses this season have come by just one score. They're better than their 3-4 record indicates.

The pick: 24-13, Lions

Odds

The Lions are favored by 4.5 points despite being the road team and the over/under is set at 44, according to Oddsshark.

Next Week

Following the game against the Lions, the Jaguars will host the only team they've defeated in 2012 entering Sunday's game as the Indianapolis Colts will come to EverBank Field for a Thursday Night Football matchup. The Lions, however, will try to earn their first divisional victory of the season in a road game against the Minnesota Vikings.

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