Jacksonville Jaguars vs Minnesota Vikings Preview

The Jacksonville Jaguars kick off their 2012 campaign this Sunday on the road against a Minnesota Vikings team that also struggled to win games last season.

Experts do not have high hopes for either team this season, but one is going to come away with a 1-0 record and begin their season on the right track.

Here are a look at some of the key things to watch on Sunday.

Blaine Gabbert vs. Christian Ponder

Both second-year quarterbacks struggled in their rookie season, but enter 2012 with the hopes of establishing themselves as legitimate franchise quarterbacks.

Gabbert looked more comfortable in the pocket this preseason and has a new compliment of weapons led by rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon at his disposal. He will get his first real crack in 2012 against a Vikings pass defense that gave up a ton of yards last season.

Ponder presents a unique challenge to the Jaguars defense because he can make plays with his feet as well as his arm. The Jaguars defensive line will need to do a good job keeping Ponder contained in the pocket and force him to beat them without using his legs.

The Vikings offensive line struggled this preseason and the Jaguars defensive line needs to make an impact on Sunday.

Eugene Monroe vs. Jared Allen

Monroe wants to establish himself as one of the best left tackles in the NFL as he enters his fourth season in the league. If he wants to be recognized as one of the best pass protectors, then he will need to stuff one of the leagues best pass rushers in Allen.

The Jaguars need to do a better job protecting Gabbert this season if they expect him to take the next step as a quarterback, that starts with Monroe being able to keep the opponents best pass rusher out of the backfield.

Backup Running Backs Take Center Stage

Rashad Jennings and Toby Gerhart will get the opportunity to start on Sunday while their more well known teammates will get limited work as they return to the lineup. Jennings will carry the load for Maurice Jones-Drew as he gets up to speed with the playbook after missing the entire offseason due to a contract holdout. Gerhart will fill in for Adrian Peterson as he works to come back from a significant knee injury he suffered late last season.

Jones-Drew will play for sure on Sunday, while Peterson’s status still remains unclear.

Both teams pride themselves on being able to run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense, so whichever backup does the better job moving the chains on Sunday will likely give their team the best chance to win.

Prediction

It is always hard to predict a Week 1 game in the NFL, but I think the Jaguars have the better team. I expect the Jaguars new receiving corps to take advantage of a poor Vikings secondary and for their defense to continue the success they had last season before being decimated by injuries.

Jaguars 24 Vikings 13


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