The (3-4) Eagles and (3-4) Jaguars travel to London to play each other at 9:30 AM, Sunday morning on CBS. After coming into the season with high expectations, both teams are off to a disappointing start so far. This is a big game for both teams as they both look to go 4-4 heading into the bye week and still in the playoffs/division race. I’ll break it down.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Carlos Hyde and the Jags running offense.
Newly acquired Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde will make his debut this Sunday. His debut couldn’t come at a better time for the Jags, as they face a must-win situation. The Jaguars haven’t had a running back rush for more than 58 yards in a game this season and has resulted in poor offensive performances. Hyde’s presence alone, will at the very least make the Jaguars rushing offense respectable. With Hyde in the lineup, the Jaguars can go back to what they do best and how the offense was built around, which is pound the rock.
Stopping Carson Wentz and the Eagles passing game.
Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz is quickly becoming one of the better young QB’s in the league. The Jags must slow him and the Eagles receivers down to have a chance to win this game. It will be a tough task for the secondary with starting Pro bowl Cornerback A.J Bouye and reserve Cornerback Tyler Patmon out. That means the Jaguars will have Jalen Ramsey and three undrafted rookies, (Quenton Meeks, Tre Herndon, and Dee Delaney) active and playing on Sunday. It’s still possible D.J Hayden plays as he hasn’t been ruled out yet, which would be a big help but that’s still a huge question mark. If Hayden isn’t able to play, rookie Cornerback Quenton Meeks would likely get the start. Meeks is a talented, physical player, who I’m really high on. It’s a tough task for a young undrafted rookie to have his first start against the defending super bowl champs and a Quarterback like Carson Wentz, but I think Meeks is more than capable of getting the job done. The Eagles have a talented core of pass catchers led by Tight End Zach Ertz, who leads the team and all Tight End’s with 618 yards receiving. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey was banged up earlier in the year but recently came back and has made an instant impact with 25 catches for 306 yards and 4 TD’S in 4 games. Receiver Nelson Aghlor is always a threat when he’s on the field with his play making ability and elite speed. Jeffrey is more of the physical, possession guy and Aghlor is the smaller, deep threat. The Jags will likely have Ramsey shadow and follow Jeffrey everywhere on the field, you don’t want to have Jeffrey mismatched with an undrafted rookie Cornerback making his first start.
Zach Ertz vs Telvin Smith.
As I mentioned earlier, Ertz leads all tight ends with 618 yards and is 6th in the NFL. There have been times this season where Telvin Smith has struggled in coverage like against Travis Kelce for Kansas City. Ertz is the Eagles #1 receiver and will look to get him involved in the offense early on. Smith is considered one of the top cover Linebackers in the NFL, but so far this season he hasn’t played like it. The Jags need Smith to play like it this week to help slow down the Eagles passing attack.
Andrew Norwell vs Fletcher Cox
Fletcher Cox is a top 5 defensive player in the league. He his disruptive, quick, athletic and can rush the passer or be a disruptive force in the running game. He already has 4 sacks on the year. The Jags paid Andrew Norwell top Guard money for games like this. Norwell must keep Bortles from being hit and provide holes for Carlos Hyde to run behind or else it will another long day for the Jags offense.
Keelan Cole vs Jalen Mills.
Keelan Cole had his worst game as a professional last weekend vs the Texans, dropping 3 passes, 2 on third down which would’ve been first down and killed momentum on those drives. He hasn’t played well since week 2 against the Patriots. The Jags need him to bounce back, get his head in the game and provide a threat in the passing game for Bortles. Jalen Mills is a solid cornerback but not the greatest si Keelan Cole will have his chance to make plays.
The Jags are at the crossroads for this season. 3-4 on the season, 0-2 in the division and another loss would put them 2 games back on the Texans for first place. This is a must win game or else you could kiss the playoffs and the season goodbye. To win, Bortles must step it up and give the Jags a respectable, good passing game. You cannot turn the ball over. Last week against the Texans, Bortles turned the ball over on the opening drive and opening possession for the Jags in 2nd half. Both turnovers were in Jaguars territory which resulted in 10 easy points and ended being the difference in the Texans 20-7 win over the Jags. This week, don’t turnover the ball and give the defense a chance to play ahead or else it will be over before it even started like last week. I know a lot of fans wanted Kessler to start this weekend, but Bortles gives the team the best chance to win this weekend and in the long run with his legs and can actually throw the ball more than 30 yards downfield. Bortles must clean up the turnovers, but the players around him must step up as well. Keelan Cole has to catch those passes on 3rd down to keep drives alive and the line has to block better. Bortles will get a big boost with Carlos Hyde this week, which helps the Jags get back to what they are built to do. A running game is a Quarterback’s bestfriend and I expect Blake to have a good game this weekend. The Jags defense was pretty good for the most part last weekend but still has issues. The Texans were able to run down the Jags throats for 4 or 5 yards a play, including an unacceptable 3rd and 21 draw play where the Texans gained 16 yards and able to get in field goal range and get 3 points. I expect the Jags run defense to bounce back this weekend against the Eagles running game that his ranked 18th and lost their best running back in Jay AJayi. Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement will carry the load and both are solid backs but not game changers. So expect the Jaguars to bounce back in that regard. The biggest key in this game, is the Jags secondary with Ramsey and three undrafted rookies and how they will hold up vs Carson Wentz and Eagles receivers.
I mentioned earlier this week that I felt the Eagles were going to win 34-17 on the podcast. As the week went on, my gut feeling started to change and I started to feel more confident. Maybe I’m just too optimistic but I think the Jags find a way to pull it off this weekend. They have an advantage playing in London by playing there the last few years. I feel like this is a big pride game for coach Doug Marrone going against Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who criticized his game management in the AFC championship vs the Patriots. I think Blake Bortles and the Jaguars will bounce back with Carlos Hyde in the fold and provide balance in the offense as the defense goes back to playing at an elite level.
JAGUARS 24 EAGLES 20