By Jeff Fogle, VSiN
September 19, 2019 | 3:01pmEnlarge Image
NFL Films should slow down production plans for “The Legend of Gardner Minshew.”
The charismatic cult figure has created quite a following in his limited time at quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But heading into Thursday night’s nationally televised tussle with the Tennessee Titans (NFL Network, 8:20 p.m.), there are reasons handicappers and bettors should be skeptical about his potential impact.
First, the good news. This man can execute short passes. Minshew’s completion percentage of 77.6 speaks very well for his ability to dink and dunk. He can connect with open receivers, particularly when not being pressured. Not all young quarterbacks can do that (Minshew is 23 years old). Some of the hype has been earned.
But his season-to-date statistics are largely influenced by what happened in extended garbage time in a season-opening 40-26 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (after he replaced the injured Nick Foles). Kansas City’s mediocre defense is known to “run clock” with big leads by letting opponents march up the middle of the field. Minshew’s passing line of 22-for-25 for 275 yards with just one sack is more a reflection of that reality than his budding stardom.
Give him credit for taking what was offered. Don’t assume he can impose his will when defenses are playing much more aggressively.
Last week in Houston, Minshew didn’t find the end zone until the game’s final moments. His passing line was a more pedestrian 23-for-33 for 213 yards with four sacks. While a late drive that almost stole victory was “gutty,” a dozen points on the scoreboard usually won’t be enough to win games or cover point spreads.
At the team level, Jacksonville converted only 23 percent of its third-down tries (3 of 13), and had drives of just 5, 29, 4, 47, 16, 16, and minus-19 yards until the Texans tired in the fourth quarter.
Bettors can ask Minshew to drive the field versus soft defenses, tired defenses or unmotivated defenses. Be careful asking too much otherwise, particularly at cheap prices. Make him earn your investments.
Tennessee’s defense has impressed so far. The Titans intercepted Baker Mayfield three times while holding the Cleveland Browns to 1-for-10 on third-down tries in a 43-13, season-opening blowout (covering the spread by five touchdowns). Though Tennessee lost at home to Indianapolis, 19-17, last week as a field-goal favorite, the defense allowed only 288 yards on 4.4 yards per play while forcing two more turnovers.
Barring surprising game-day developments, Tennessee will likely close as a short favorite or pick ’em. Betting markets expect a defensive struggle, with an Over/Under near 40. Both teams stayed well Under last week, with their games landing on 36 (Titans-Colts) and 25 (Jaguars-Texans).
If Minshew has a big game in an impressive win/cover Thursday versus the Titans, the league’s hype machine can start going full bore. If not, the game itself will probably be a full bore.