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Another Week, Another "Must Have" Game



Date: November 23, 2008 Location: Jacksonville, FL
Time: 12:00 P.M. CST Stadium: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
DirecTV Ch. 712
Know Thy Enemy: Big Cat Country
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 23, Jaguars 20
Final Score: Vikings 30, Jaguars 12

This game presents some interesting challenges for the Beloved Purple, but it appears that they're challenges that can be overcome and can lead to a Vikings' victory.

For starters, while the Jaguars have arguably the second-best 1-2 running back combo in the National Football League in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. . .come on, we all know who's #1 in that department. . .they're rush offense is "only" #11 in the NFL thus far. Part of this has to do with the fact that their offensive line has been a mess this season, as they've had to put a bunch of linemen on IR The other part of it has to do with the fact that Jaguars' quarterback David Garrard hasn't had nearly the type of year in 2008 that he had in 2007.

As Jacksonville's starting QB in 2007, Garrard had a TD-to-INT ratio of 18/3 in 12 starts. While his interceptions haven't increased dramatically (he's thrown 6 this year), he only has 8 touchdown throws. He's also averaging a full year less per attempt than he did in 2007, and the Jaguars' receiving corps is relatively suspect. However, like we saw with Jeff Garcia last week, Garrard is exactly the kind of quarterback that the Vikings tend to have trouble with, given his mobility and his accuracy. So, just like last week, the Vikings will have to get a handle on #9 in teal and gold if they hope to win today. It will (or should) be significantly tougher to stop Jacksonville's running game than it was stopping Tampa's, but with the Williams boys still in the middle, they should be able to get it done.

This game also matches up two teams with interesting dilemmas. We know that the Vikings have their troubles on the road, having posted a 1-4 record away from the Metrodome this season. However, the Jaguars' struggles have been on their home turf this year, as they're 1-4 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and 3-2 on the road. So, the Vikings don't win on the road, and the Jaguars don't win at home. To borrow a phrase, something has to give this afternoon.

One other interesting tidbit I grabbed from USA Today. Last week, the Jaguars had a 14-3 halftime lead against the undefeated Tennessee Titans before falling 24-14. Tennessee's opponents are 2-7 this season the week after they play Tennessee. One of the two exceptions to that? Yes, your Minnesota Vikings, who played New Orleans the week after they played the Titans and managed to win a wild one in the Big Easy. Will the Jaguars be experiencing a letdown after playing the Titans so close, only to see the game. . .and, likely, their playoff hopes. . .disappear? We'll have to find out.

I don't know how many more games we're going to have the Williams Wall for. . .if there's any justice, we'll have them for all of them. . .but if this ends up being their last real hurrah for the year, I think the Vikings have what it takes today to send them off with a close, hard-fought victory.

Game kicks off in two hours, folks. . .hope to see you all here then!