JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The Seahawks’ game day in Florida dawned sunny, as you’d expect, but much chillier than folks down here are used to. It got into the 40s Saturday night. That had the locals in parkas and ski masks.
The temperatures will be in the low 50s for kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1:25 p.m. Pacific Time.
Before noon Sunday, 4 1/2 hours before kickoff, there were already “SEA! HAWKS!” chants on that walkway on the bottom right of that photo, along the St. Johns River.
The game within Sunday’s game here is Jaguars’ star cornerback Jalen Ramsey one on one with Seahawks top wide receiver Doug Baldwin--and Ramsey’s attempts to trash talk into Baldwin’s head. Ramsey is officially listed as questionable with a sore hamstring, but there’s no way last season’s fifth-overall pick is going to miss this one.
The two games to follow besides this one Sunday are Minnesota (10-2) at Carolina (8-4) at 10 a.m. Pacific and Philadelphia (10-2) at the Los Angeles Rams (9-3) at 1:25. While, yes, Seattle would like the Vikings and Eagles to lose to bring them back toward the Seahawks possibly, eventually getting a top-two seed in the NFC and thus a second-round playoff game at home, the Seahawks’ primary task is to leave Florida Sunday night remaining as they were entering the weekend: within one game of the Rams in the NFC West.
Los Angeles plays at Seattle a week from today. If the Seahawks remain a game within the Rams after Sunday, next week’s showdown at CenturyLink Field will likely decide who wins the division--and thus who gets the third or fourth seed in the NFC. That comes with a first-round game at home against a wild-card team.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-4) at JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (8-4)
Sunday, 1:25 p.m., EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
Line: Jaguars by 2½.
TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
The series: The Seahawks are 5-2 against the Jaguars. The Seahawks have won the last two meetings, both in Seattle, in 2009 and ’13 by a combined score of 86-17. The Jaguars’ second-ever win over the Seahawks was Sept. 11, 2005, in Jacksonville 26-14. Seattle committed five turnovers in the opening game of a season that ended with the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Do what they often do to top running games: They don’t always have the top-ranked run defense over an entire season. But for years the Seahawks’ front seven on defense have stopped the NFL’s best runners. Just ask Adrian Peterson. LeGarrette Blount just last week. The Eagles entered last week with the league top rushing offense at 145 yards per game. They left with just 98 yards on the ground at Seattle in a loss. This time Jacksonville enters as the NFL’s No.-1 run game. If blocker-stuffing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner continue what they’ve done this season, Seattle can take away rookie Leonard Fournette’s decisive running. That will put the game on quarterback Blake Bortles. And that’s where the Seahawks want this game to be decided.
Block—or escape--Jacksonville’s ends: The former Cardinals tackle has been reborn as a Jaguars end in their 4-3 base sets. He moves around the line when Jacksonville goes nickel. He has 12½ sacks, more than in any other of his first nine entire seasons in the league. He most often lines up at right defensive end. That would be opposite the Seahawks’ best blocker, left tackle Duane Brown. Look for Jacksonville to move Campbell more, away from Brown. Jaguars left end Yannick Ngakoue is no picnic for Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi, who has struggled with edge rushers all season. Then again, Seattle can rely on what it has all year: Russell Wilson running around any and all pressure, anyway. Even when his pass protection fails, if Wilson gets outside Campbell and Ngakoue, the Seahawks will move the ball and score.
Get to Bortles with 4: The Seahawks have been mostly relying on their front four to pressure and dropping seven into coverage in the three games since they lost Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor for the season to injuries. Last week they did not blitz Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz on a passing down until the fourth quarter—and held the NFL’s highest-scoring offense to three points over the first three periods. If Richardson, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark do to Jacksonville’s offensive line what they did to the more-accomplished Eagles one with multiple potential Pro Bowlers, the Seahawks will affect Bortles in game-changing ways.
The pick: Seahawks, 17-16. Once again, Wilson is better than the opponent’s best player. More of No. 3’s magic plus pressuring Bortles into his penchant from killer mistakes send Seattle home with a rugged road win that will at times look like a street fight.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
3 Russell Wilson QB 5-11 215 sixth
He remains Seattle’s difference maker, better than the other team’s best. MVP candidacy grows.
30 Bradley McDougald SS 6-1 215 fifth
Chancellor’s sub has a big task up in the box against JAX’s run game. More of a cover guy, he needs to make stops on Fournette’s runs.
76 Duane Brown LT 6-4 315 12th
Here comes Calais Campbell with his 12½ sacks running at Seattle’s best offensive lineman.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
20 Jalen Ramsey CB 6-2 208 second
2016 2nd-overall pick’s been better faster than Eagles probably even planned. Not just a great arm. He can run, too.
93 Calais Campbell DE 6-8 300 10th
12½ sacks, already more than in any of his nine full seasons before this in Arizona. Often at RDE in base 4-3. That would be opposite SEA’s Brown.
27 Leonard Fournette RB 6-0 228 rookie
Powerful. And Jags will keep pounding him throughout the game, even if Seahawks are stopping him.