AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW Sun: Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars

The final London game of the year sees two sides that have slipped from having 2-1 records in Week 3 and looking as though they could be the up to a position when they are both 2-5 having lost their last four games.

Whilst it’s too early to hit the total panic button for each franchise they both had their reasons for expecting to push forward from promising starts and not to find themselves in their current positions.

The Jaguars are making their 9th appearance in London and face a Broncos side that has been hard to score against allowing just one team (the Raiders) to score more than 19 points against them. The Denver defence has allowed a touchdown on just 7/82 drives this year and ranks No1 in that metric in the entire NFL. The Broncos defence has allowed 16.4 points per game this season (third best in NFL). They’ve allowed 115 points through seven games, their fewest since 2015, when they last won the Super Bowl. That gives you some idea of the task facing the Jaguars who have hardly been prolific scorers themselves this year especially of late when totalling just 50 points in their last three games.

At the start of the year there was some improvement in the play of Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence who is now into his second season but of late his play has been erratic. Last week was a good example of Lawrence’s inconsistent performances and whilst he had 310 yards passing he was barely over 50% on his pass completions (22-of-43) and he missed several easy short throws that should be routine at the elite-NFL level. He’s been one of the hardest QBs to sack this season – he has been sacked just 10 times in seven games and has played four games without being sacked – but the defence has been one of the few good things for Denver this season and I envisage problems for Lawrence against this defence.

The midweek trade of RB James Robinson to the New York Jets has given Travis Etienne sole possession of the Jaguars backfield and the fact that he had 93.8% of the running back touches last week indicates that Etienne will have a heavy workload this week especially with Robinson no longer a factor. There’s no doubt that Etienne is a promising young running back and he had 114 yards on the ground against the Giants last week plus a TD. However, his game isn’t mistake free and his fumble from close range last week that should have resulted in another score was probably the difference between a Jaguars win and the eventual loss. Rather like Lawrence he can make mistakes.

Denver have been particularly good at locking down wide receivers and so far the Broncos have allowed the second-fewest wide receiver yards as well as the lowest wide receiver yards per target (5.8) and only one receiving score. Christian Kirk will again be the main target for Lawrence through the air and at least he comes into this tough matchup on the back of a 101-yard effort last week against the Giants.

The Broncos have been one of the disappointments of the season after successfully recruiting Seattle QB Russell Wilson and a new head coach in Nathaniel Hackett they came into the season on a wave of optimism. The reality has been rather different though Wilson has looked out of sorts and returns here on the back of missing Week 7 with a shoulder injury. Hackett has at times looked out of his depth making some strange play calls, suffering from poor clock management and his system-orientated offence has failed to gel with Wilson’s play making style of offence.

Whilst the Denver defence has played at a playoff level the offence has played at a standard way below of what could be expected with the personnel they have at he skill positions. The Broncos have scored just 100 points this year with the 23 points they scored against the Raiders in Week 4 their highest team total so far.

Wilson in particular has struggled and looked nothing like the dynamic QB that he was in Seattle although there is time for that to change. The Jaguars have had trouble rushing the passer this season (just four sacks in the past four games) and forcing turnovers (eight in the first three games and just one in the past four) and that may make Wilson feel a little more comfortable.

Melvin Gordon operated as Denver’s lead back in Week 7’s loss to the Jets, converting a 51% playing-time clip into 13 touches for 50 yards and he’s likely to be complimented by Latavius Murray. This looks a good matchup for the duo as the Jaguars have allowed 130-plus RB yards in four straight games and if the Broncos can establish the ground game it may at least give them a platform for their passing game.

Courtland Sutton ought to feature as the Broncos main wide receiver as he already holds the team leads in catches (31), yards (431), and first-down conversions (19) on Wilson’s throws. Jacksonville are without one of their main cornerbacks in Shaq Griffin and if Wilson can continue his connection with Sutton he could hold the key to the Broncos posting a few more points. Sutton will be backed up by fellow wide receiver Jerry Jeudy who turned a season-high 11 targets into 96 yards last week and tight end Greg Dulcich who posted a 6-51-0 receiving line on nine targets last week and appears to be locked in as the team’s No. 3 pass-catcher.

All of the statistics point to this being a low scoring game the Broncos games this season for instance have produced totals of 33,25, 21, 55, 21, 35 and 25. Of the two teams though they probably have a little more on firepower on offence and with defence playing the way it is they may not have to put that many points on the board to gain victory here especially as Jacksonville have lost six straight games when they have been made favourites, tied for the seventh-longest streak in the Super Bowl era.


ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


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PROFIT/LOSS (OCT 2022): LOSS -21.34 points
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