The Jaguars and 49ers are set to meet this Sunday in Santa Clara at 4:05 pm EST. Both teams enter the contest winners of three straight. The Jaguars have beaten the Colts, Seahawks, and Texans during that span while the 49ers have taken down the Bears, Texans, and Titans.
Both team's have hot QBs. Blake Bortles has been on fire in December, tossing seven touchdown passes and no interceptions, while having the highest passer rating in football. Jimmy Garoppolo has been playing solid football too. He has thrown three touchdowns to two interceptions in his three starts, but has put up a ton of yards and been very accurate in doing so.
If the Jaguars are able to win their fourth straight game then they'll lock up the AFC South and in doing so ensure a home playoff game in January. They could also clinch the division via a Titans loss to the Rams.
Let's take a look at what the Jaguars need to do to beat the 49ers in this one.
1. Be ready for the 49ers to scheme some stuff up on offense.
The 49ers offense, based on talent alone, doesn't present much for the Jaguars historic defense to worry about it. The 49ers are depleted at WR and have an offensive line that has allowed 42 sacks this season. Jimmy Garoppolo is a more than capable QB, and has established solid connections with TE Garrett Celek and WR Marquise Goodwin, but he hasn't seen anything like this Jaguars defense. So, the Jaguars defense needs to be ready for Kyle Shanahan and his bag of tricks. That's the only way the 49ers offense will be able to find any consistency against a defense that leads the NFL in sacks, passing defense, and has become increasingly more difficult to deal with since the midseason addition of Marcell Dareus. Shanahan and the 49ers will likely bring out some exotic and unfamiliar offensive formations to try and keep their hot streak going. The Jaguars simply need to be ready and play their game.
2. Don't get complacent.
The Jaguars have already locked up a spot in the playoffs. It would be easy for them to pack it in early and not take this west coast trip very seriously. The Jaguars traditionally struggle on the west coast. Even though the Jaguars have locked up a playoff spot, there is still much to play for. Doug Marrone needs to make sure his players realize what's at stake here. If the Jaguars win this game they will guarantee themselves a home playoff game. If the Jaguars win each of their last two games and either the Steelers or Patriots lose another game then the Jaguars will get a first round bye in the playoffs. There's a lot on the line here and the Jaguars need to play with a sense of urgency in this one.
3. Blake Bortles needs to continue to play well.
In all four of the Jaguars losses this year Blake Bortles has failed to throw for 250 yards. While the Jaguars have succeeded several times this year on the offensive side of the ball without leaning heavily on Bortles, their best chance to win is for Bortles to have a strong outing. It's not as if 250 yards is some sort of magic number that Bortles needs to reach. No, all Bortles needs to do is play within himself and hit the open man. The late season emergence of Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, and Jaydon Mickens, along with the return of Allen Hurns to the lineup should be more than enough for the Jaguars to continue their offensive fireworks - the big cats have scored at least 30 points in each of their last three games. As long as Bortles plays within himself and plays with confidence there is no reason for the Jaguars offense to struggle against a 49ers defense that ranks in the bottom third of the league in most defensive categories.
Do you think the Jaguars will achieve victory in California? Let us know in the comments below!
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