The Jacksonville Jaguars have problems. A lot of problems.
At 0-7, the Jags have earned their spot at the bottom of the NFL’s ladder.
It’s no surprise that if the Jaguars hope to beat the 49ers Sunday in London, everything will have to fall perfectly in place. Meanwhile, fter a slow start, the Niners have won four straight games – scoring 30 or more points in each to improve to 5-2 – and the San Francisco defense and special teams are in a groove, too.
Oddsmakers have made the 49ers a whopping 16½-point favorite.
So it’s no surprise that this week, after studying the Jaguars-49ers matchup, John Oehser of the Jaguars.com website produced a laundry list of things the Jags need to do if they hope to win Sunday’s game. Ten things, in fact:
Protect the quarterback (Jacksonville allowed six sacks in its last game). Forget the surroundings at Wembley Stadium. Forget the whole London experience. Get better quarterback play. Stop Frank Gore. Stop Colin Kaepernick. Make the catch (the Jags dropped two potential TD passes last week). Force turnovers. Feed Justin Blackmon (their young wideout). And, play with spirit (apparently, this is a buzzword of head coach Gus Bradley).
In other words, the Jaguars likely need a miracle to stay close to the 49ers, let alone beat them.
Of course, that’s not the way 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh sees it. This week, Harbaugh was speaking of the Jaguars as if they were 7-0 instead of 0-7. Harbaugh cited their strong pass rush, solid defensive line and “outstanding” special teams.
“They fly around,” Harbaugh told reporters this week. “They play with great effort. And those are dangerous teams when you can see them getting better. So, could go on, but many challenges.”
Jacksonville, meanwhile, will be challenged to stop San Francisco’s running game. The Jags rank 32nd vs. the run (allowing 150-plus yards per game and a league-high nine TDs on the ground), and the Niners are now the third-best running team in the NFL. The Niners’ Gore has averaged 21.1 carries per game during their four-game winning streak for 101 yards per game. This looks like a mismatch.
Plus, now that the 49ers have shown they can break out the read-option effectively – as they did against the Titans last week – Jacksonville must now show it can stop Gore, plus contain Kaepernick if he chooses to take the ball outside. That 1-2 punch of Gore and Kaepernick may be too much for Jacksonville’s defense.
As Michael DiRocco, who covers the Jaguars for ESPN.com, noted this week, nothing the Jags have done this year on defense says they can contain San Francisco’s running game.
“The defense’s biggest problem agains the rush is that it has given up a lot of explosive plays,” wrote DiRocco. “Jacksonville has allowed an NFL-worst 10 rushing plays of 20 or more yards. Stopping the read-option is assignment football and the Jaguars’ ends have not been as disciplined as needed. Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor ran for 50 yards in Week 2, including a 27-yard run in which the entire defensive front bit on the inside fake.”
The 49ers will be hoping for a fifth straight victory, which would put them at 6-2 at their bye week. Their next game will be Sunday, Nov. 10 at home vs. the Carolina Panthers.