Seahawks look to keep things rolling against Jaguars team jockeying for playoff positioning in the AFC
On Sunday afternoon at EverBank Field, the Seattle Seahawks (8-4) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4) will lock horns in a very critical contest for both teams. Seattle leads the all-time series 5-2 over Jacksonville as the Seahawks won the last meeting 45-17 back in 2013 at CenturyLink Field. This game has almost an MMA fight type of feel to it as these two teams are going to bring it physicality-wise.
Seattle did its best Rocky Balboa impression last Sunday night in a 24-10 upset of Philadelphia, who entered with the NFL’s best record and on a nine-game winning streak. Russell Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, the Seahawks were opportunistic as they created two turnovers which ultimately was the difference in the game. Another key factor was holding the Eagles’ second-ranked rushing attack to just 98 yards on 26 carries.
For the Jaguars, this game against the Seahawks is without question a “statement” game as they need to be able to show they can be a very physical, playoff- caliber team. Last week, Jacksonville dominated Indianapolis in all phases of the game winning 30-10. Blake Bortles (above, right) took care of business, completing 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. The Jaguars also were effective on third down, converting on nine of 15 chances.
Seattle at Jacksonville
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 10 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Jacksonville -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks’ offensive line vs. Jacksonville’s defensive line
This Seattle offensive line will once again be under siege on Sunday as the Jaguars are going to do everything they can to make Russell Wilson run for his life. Jacksonville leads the NFL with 45 sacks led by a familiar face. Calais Campbell, who terrorized the Seahawks over the years while playing for Arizona, is third in the league with 12.5 sacks in his first season with the Jaguars. Duane Brown will need to play at a high level to protect Wilson’s blind side on Sunday. The rest of the offensive line will need to play disciplined and not have any unnecessary penalties to get the offense off schedule.
2. Jaguars’ offense vs. Seahawks’ defense
Running the football effectively is going to be a potential game-changer on Sunday for Jacksonville. If Leonard Fournette can get into a rhythm and move the chains, it will keep the Seahawks’ defense off balance. Blake Bortles has had a nice season so far, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Bortles is going to have to play disciplined on Sunday as Frank Clark and Sheldon Richardson are going to be in his face all afternoon long. If Bortles can get rid of the ball quickly and get it into the hands of Marqise Lee, who leads the team with 51 receptions and 637 yards, along with three touchdowns, the Jaguars should be in great shape. Head coach Doug Marrone also can do his part to help the offense by not getting too greedy with the play calling.
3. Can the Seahawks throw the ball against the Jaguars?
Wilson and his cast of pass catchers are going to have its hands full going up against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked passing defense. The secondary is solid thanks to the addition of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who has already thrown some fuel on to the fire. Earlier this week Ramsey said of Doug Baldwin, Seattle’s No. 1 receiver, “No disrespect to (Baldwin), he’s a good player. But he ain’t Larry Fitzgerald.” Look for Wilson to try and get Baldwin involved in the passing game right away to make Ramsey put his money where his mouth is. Jimmy Graham also is going to need to make his presence known as he offers a potential way for the Seahawks to have some success through the air. If Graham can get matched up against Jacksonville linebackers that could be something Seattle can take advantage of. Also the screen pass figures to be a part of the game plan in an effort to slow down the Jags’ pass rush.
The Seahawks are coming off a very emotional win last Sunday night and have the challenge of traveling clear across the country. Getting off to a fast start will help Seattle on Sunday as Pete Carroll’s team doesn’t want to fall behind by too much. Russell Wilson has been on an MVP-caliber tear and his mere presence gives the Seahawks a chance of winning this important road game. Jacksonville wants to get to where Seattle has been so the Jags now have a chance to measure themselves against a team with plenty of playoff experience. The difference in this game will be Leonard Fournette and Jacksonville’s running game. The Jaguars grind out just enough offense to earn a hard-fought victory on Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: Jaguars 20, Seahawks 14
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.