Jacksonville Looks To Assert Themselves As Contenders vs. NFL Blueblood, Seattle: What To Watch
Jacksonville, FL — In 2012, the Seattle Seahawks made a statement with a win over the Green Bay Packers. That game was ended in a controversial hail mary, reviewed by replacement refs on Monday Night Football. But from that point, the Seahawks have been one of the keystone franchises in the NFL.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4) are looking for a similar payoff, as they welcome the Seahawks (8-4) to EverBank Field. Seattle started their claim to NFL supremacy with tenacious defensive play and a robust rushing attack. The Jaguars lead the NFL in total defense, passing defense, scoring defense, sacks, and the leagues best rushing attack.
Jacksonville tried to duplicate Seattle’s success by hiring Gus Bradley, who was Seattle’s defensive coordinator in 2012. Five years later, Bradley is gone due to his inability to get production out the Jag’s draft picks and free agent signings.
But the groundwork he laid is noticeable, current Jags head coach Doug Marrone has Jacksonville approaching their best win total since 2007.
What’s At Stake
Both teams are in the thick of divisional races, trying to secure a home playoff game via division titles. And both teams will miss the playoffs if they are not focused, not playing their best football.
Seattle currently holds the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs; they are one game back of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. Coming off an impressive win over Philadelphia, the Seahawks need a win to keep pace, as the teams trailing them are starting to heat up.
Jacksonville sits in the fifth seed as in the AFC playoffs as well; they are tied with the Tennessee Titans for first place in the AFC South as they look for their first divisional title since 1999.
Containing Russell Wilson
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is the end all, be all for the Seahawks’ offense. Russell is legendary for his mobility, as he extends plays with his legs and is deadly accurate on the run. Wilson has taken his abilities to new heights this season, leading the Seahawks in rushing, single-handedly keeping Seattle in the playoff hunt.
“He’s doing a really nice job of extending plays and staying alive in the pocket,” defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. “It’s maybe not so much the scrambling of gaining yards. It’s the scrambling of staying alive, letting his receivers really outwork DBs on the back end and making explosive plays happen because of the extension of plays.”
The Jaguars pride themselves on sacking the quarterback, leading the NFL in sacks with 45. Wilson thrives vs. ultra aggressive pass rushers, using his legs to buy time and make plays down the field.
It starts with stopping the run, putting the Seahawks in obvious passing situations. Making Wilson throw the ball vs. Jacksonville’s top-ranked pass defense. The Jaguars have a great matchup vs. Seattle’s sub-par receivers.
Jacksonville’s task of containing Wilson is burdensome, with the Jags potentially missing linebacker Telvin Smith (concussion); the Jags will have to rely on a quarterback spy at times to keep Wilson from making big plays with his legs.
Jacksonville’s Offensive Production
Sunday’s matchup will be a low scoring game, with Jacksonville’s number one pass defense (167.1 yds/gm) and Seattle’s seventh-ranked rush defense (98.3 yds/gm). Points will come at a premium due to both teams’ top ten scoring defenses. Offensively, this game will come down to who takes care of the ball best, and who can manufacture first downs, keeping drives alive.
The Jaguars had a great outing last week vs. the Colts, quarterback Blake Bortles in particular. However, Bortles cannot play Indianapolis every week. This week’s matchup is a fundamental turning point in Jacksonville’s assessment of the fourth year quarterback. How far can Bortles take the Jaguars? At some point, Bortles will have to put the Jags on his back win a ball game.
During Sunday’s contest vs. the Seahawks, Jacksonville’s rushing attack will be stationary. Jacksonville cannot abandon the run game and must be more creative in getting running back Leonard Fournette consistent rushing lanes.
Seattle’s front seven is among the best in the league; they will stack the box allowing single coverage on the outside. Can rookie wide receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook step up to the challenge and win vs. Seattle’s Legion of Boom.
Prediction: The last time these two teams played, Seattle dismantled Jacksonville in 2013, 45-17. Things have changed, as Jacksonville is the favorite now. One of the biggest differences from 2013 is the Seahawks’ offensive line. The Jaguars will dominate the line of scrimmage, allowing their defense to harass Wilson. A win Sunday, commences Jacksonville’s path to NFL sovereignty.
Jacksonville 17 – Seattle 13