Before the season, this game wouldn't have made a ripple on the schedule. Now, it's a matchup between two intriguing teams that could make the playoffs if they keep things up. It's hard to pinpoint which Jacksonville team is the real one. The Jaguars beat the Steelers 30-9 in Pittsburgh last week, but that came after a pretty rough 23-20 overtime loss to the Jets. Leonard Fournette has been the real deal for the Jags, as the team has rushed for 150 yards or more four times already. They are literally trying to let Blake Bortles do as little as possible on offense, and it's working for now.
Sean McVay has done wonders for the Los Angeles offense himself. Jared Goff looked lost at times last year, and Todd Gurley was bottled up for the most part. Now, both have had a revitalization and are threats to their opponents. The Rams are coming off a game in which they nearly knocked off Seattle despite committing five turnovers, losing 16-10. They've scored 20 or more points in all but one contest.
For the most part, both of these teams are healthy entering this matchup. If the Rams can get a win here, they could start a streak with the Cardinals and Giants as their next two opponents. Jacksonville travels to Indy next week before a bye and then games against the Bengals and Chargers. The Jags could also build a nice streak with a win in this one.
Los Angeles at Jacksonville
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 15 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Jaguars -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Where is Sammy Watkins?
Quite simply, you can put Watkins' face on a milk carton, because he has disappeared for Los Angeles. He's had just one catch in six targets over his last two contests. When Watkins is healthy, which he is now, he can be a difference-maker on offense. He's got good speed and route-running ability. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are two of the better ranked CB's by Pro Football Focus, so it won't be easy for the former Bills receiver to get open. The Steelers are the only team to crack the 300-yard passing mark against this secondary. Those numbers look really good until you see that they faced Houston (pre-Deshaun Watson), Tennessee, Baltimore and the Jets. We'll see if slot guy Cooper Kupp out of Eastern Washington can get open after a bad drop of a touchdown last week.
2. Run, run and run some more
These two teams are mirror images of each other in terms of both really wanting to pound the ball on the ground. For some reason, LA thought it was a good idea against Seattle to throw it 47 times to just 22 called runs. That result led to a loss to the Seahawks, who were more then happy to defend the pass. Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette are making the difference for each team. Gurley, in particular, is being used more as a passing weapon out of the backfield. In his rookie year he had only 21 receptions total over 13 games played. This season, the former Georgia back has 22 receptions over his first five. Fournette has a violent running style, even asking for the hit last week against Pittsburgh.
If you look at the statistics for these two teams, you'll notice the turnover number and its effect. LA had five turnovers over its first four games and five last week, so that made a difference. Their defense has forced turnovers in all but one contest, which coincidentally was the loss to the Redskins. Jacksonville has had one turnover or fewer four times this season. That's a product of keeping Blake Bortles out of trouble. The Jags' defense is getting teams to turn the ball over pretty well making them a huge hit in fantasy football. I know it's elementary, but the team that keeps the ball is going to win this game.
It's crazy to think that the winner of this game will be 4-2 on the season and talking about playoffs. Neither had much in the way of expectations from their fans and the media so this is all a big surprise. Sean McVay and Doug Marrone are building really good teams that are finally using their talent in good ways. To me, the Jags are the better team at this moment. Their defense is the difference in slowing down Goff and forcing the Rams to beat them on the ground. The Titans and Jets each gashed the Jags with their run game. I don't see that happening on Sunday.
Prediction: Jaguars 20, Rams 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo courtesy of www.jaguars.com)