Jaguars (4-9) at Falcons (8-5)
8:30 p.m. Eastern, NFL Network
Line: Falcons by 11
Great news, NFL Network: the Jaguars may no longer be television ratings poison. The Jaguars were responsible for the two lowest ”Monday Night Football” ratings of the season, but the Seahawks and the Rams managed to tunnel beneath them with this week’s cavalcade of blocked punts, hacky-sacked snaps and screen passes that hit the receiver’s knee on one bounce. The Jaguars also scored 41 points in their win over the Buccaneers, more than in their previous three games combined and more than twice their previous season high.
The Jaguars now have the potential to hold your attention. All it took was a change in coaching and ownership, a series of fumbled punts by the opponent and the kind of general lassitude that came when two teams (Seattle and St. Louis) with seven total wins faced off in mid-December.
Falcons Coach Mike Smith, a former Jaguars coordinator, was briefly hospitalized after Sunday’s victory over the Panthers with an undisclosed illness. Smith was back in Atlanta on Monday and will be on the sideline Thursday. Smith is from Daytona, Fla., and while he enjoys trips back to Jacksonville, playing at home cuts down on his ticket costs. ”It’s a little cheaper up here since I don’t have as many friends as I did in Jacksonville,” he said.
Smith’s Florida supporters can watch the game on television. The network needs the ratings.
(Pick does not reflect the betting line)
This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.