Eagles, Jaguars arrive in London looking for answers
The Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars arrive in London with both teams looking to turn things around after disappointing starts to the 2018 season. Each team is sitting with a 3-4 record, which is especially discouraging when you consider how each team finished in 2017.
At this point, it seems like things in Jacksonville are a lot less certain. The Jaguars' losing streak sits at three games, all of which were by double-digit points. Anyone still holding out hope that Blake Bortles is a franchise quarterback saw that notion crash and burn last Sunday. The former No. 3 overall pick was benched in favor of Cody Kessler after turning the ball over 11 times (eight interceptions, three fumbles) in seven games. He’s been given yet another chance, but there’s little hope for a turnaround.
The Eagles have the same record as Jacksonville, but it’s looked a lot different. How much different will go a long way in determining who leaves London victorious.
Philadelphia vs. Jacksonville (London)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 9:30 a.m. ET
Where: Wembley Stadium (London)
TV: NFL Network
Spread: Philadelphia -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Carson Wentz vs. the Jaguars’ pass defense
Carson Wentz was beginning to emerge as one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks before a torn ACL ended his 2017 season prematurely. It’s taken him some time to knock off the rust, but he’s beginning to regain some of that confidence.
The 6-foot-5, 237-pound signal-caller has thrown for 1,502 yards and 10 touchdowns in his five starts. More impressively, he’s only tossed one interception. There’s been a fumbling issue (six fumbles, four lost) however, which is a major reason why the team blew a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead over the Panthers in Week 7.
Jacksonville’s secondary may be the most talented in the NFL. The Jaguars are leading the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, only giving up 179.7.
With that said, they’re dealing with multiple injuries at cornerback. Three of the team’s top four players at that position (A.J. Bouye, D.J. Hayden and Tyler Patmon) will be forced to miss Sunday’s matchup. A dominant pass rush could somewhat make up for that loss, which means the Jaguars will need all hands on deck.
2. How will Carlos Hyde factor in?
General manager David Caldwell decided that the Jaguars' offense needed another bruiser with Leonard Fournette out with hamstring issues. To find T.J. Yeldon’s temporary running mate, Caldwell went out and traded a fifth-round draft pick to Cleveland for Hyde. A 2014 second-round pick by San Francisco, Hyde was in his first season with the Browns after signing a three-year deal as a free agent this offseason.
The trade wasn’t completed until late last week, so Hyde was inactive for Jacksonville's 20-7 home loss to Houston. Don’t expect that to be the case for a second week in a row – even with his struggles in Cleveland.
Hyde’s six games as a Brown didn’t yield spectacular results. The 28-year-old was given 120 touches (114 carries, six receptions) in those contests, but he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. He did have five touchdowns on the ground, however.
The hope is his physical, between-the-tackles style will take some of the pressure off Bortles and the passing game. Let’s see if that ends up being the case.
3. Jacksonville in London
If there was one thing playing in the Jaguars’ favor, it would be the team’s familiarity with London games. Crossing the big pond is no easy task, and Jacksonville has proven that the team is capable of making the trip and playing effectively.
Getting back to Blake Bortles, he’s been outstanding in his last three London games. He’s averaged 2.7 touchdowns and has only tossed one interception during that span. That has been a major factor to Jacksonville’s three-game winning streak across the pond.
Philadelphia’s secondary is exploitable, too. The Eagles currently check in at No. 24 in the league in passing yards surrendered (269.7) over the first seven weeks of the season. As if that wasn’t enough, the pass rush recently lost former first-round pick Derek Barnett to a season-ending shoulder injury.
There’s just too much going against Jacksonville right now. Sure, the addition of a bruising back like Carlos Hyde should help a struggling run game. But it won’t be enough to overcome the injuries and the lack of confidence in Blake Bortles.
With Philadelphia’s defense out of sync, the Jaguars will still be able to put up points. It’s just hard to imagine it being more than a matchup of a Carson Wentz-led offense against a banged-up Jacksonville secondary.
The Eagles need to avoid another four-quarter meltdown, however.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Jaguars 20
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.