The Seahawks head to the east coast this weekend when they travel to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville (8-4) has had one of their most successful seasons in recent years, fueled by an extraordinary defensive unit. They currently sit in first place in the AFC South. They are looking to win their division for the first time since 1999, when they played in the AFC Central division.
The Seahawks sit one game back behind the Los Angeles Rams, and are looking to keep the pressure on them before they face off next week. But the Seahawks will have their hands full against a talented Jaguars team. Coming off a dominating win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Seahawks are looking to keep the momentum going this week.
The Seahawks and Jaguars have played seven times, with the Seahawks winning five of those games. The last time these two teams faced off was in 2013 in Seattle, with the Seahawks coming out with a 45-17 victory. The Jaguars quarterback that game was Chad Henne, who is currently the team’s backup behind Blake Bortles.
With the Jaguars turnaround this season, this is a very intriguing game for both teams. The Jaguars are looking to beat one the leagues most dominant teams in recent years. For the Seahawks, they are looking to make a statement by beating the team with the leagues best defense. With a lot on the line for both teams, let’s look at the biggest things to watch in this matchup.
Seattle offensive line vs. Jacksonville’s pass rush
The Seattle offensive line has looked the best it has looked all season in recent weeks. With Luke Joeckel healthy and the addition of Duane Brown, the offensive line has been solid. The Seattle offensive line has given Russell Wilson time to deliver throws and create space for a rejuvenated run game. But they are going to face the best defensive line they have faced all season against Jacksonville.
The Jaguars have recorded the most sacks in the NFL with 45 on the season. Calais Campbell, who is in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year, leads the team with 12.5 sacks. Opposite of Campbell is Yannick Ngakoue, who has 10 sacks on the season, has been one of the most undervalued in the NFL. With so much attention going to Campbell, Marcell Dareus, and Malik Jackson, Ngakoue is able to get one-on-one matchups. He has also been able to create turnovers with his strip-sack ability, forcing six fumbles on the season. Seattle will also have to deal with Dante Fowler, as he can create problems for tackles with his speed rushing abilities.
The new Seattle offensive line has been able to keep Wilson off his back the past few weeks. But that will be a tall task against this stacked Jacksonville defensive line. The matchup to watch will be whoever is lined up across from Germain Ifedi. Ifedi has been prone to give up rushes to speed rushers, which is what he will have to deal with in Fowler and Ngakoue. If he can not handle the edge by himself, the Seahawks will be forced to leave a tight end or a running back in to block, which would limit the routes being run on a play. That could be a huge problem with the talent the Jaguars have in the backend of their defensive unit.
Doug Baldwin vs. Jalen Ramsey
Wilson’s favorite target among the Seattle receivers is Doug Baldwin. He can move right where Wilson wants him to when Wilson does his backyard football plays, running around the backfield buying time for his receivers to get open. This season, Baldwin has 63 receptions for 782 yards and four touchdowns. He has also made a living of breaking defensive backs ankles at the line of scrimmage while lined up in the slot. His ability beat defenders off the line of scrimmage creates wide open throws for Wilson. But he will be facing his biggest test when he goes up against Jacksonville’s star second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey has shut down some of the game’s best receivers this season, most notably when he got in A.J. Green’s head so badly that he got Green ejected. Ramsey will likely be shadowing Baldwin wherever he goes this week. He has been ranked as the second-best corner in the league this season by Pro Football Focus, with a grade of 93.8. Ramsey ahs the athleticism to stick with Baldwin, but the key for Baldwin is if he can shake him off when Wilson improvises. Baldwin will also have more trouble getting off the line of scrimmage, as Ramsey is very good at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and throwing the timing off their routes.
Seattle defense vs. Leonard Fournette
After struggling to stop the run early in the season, the Seahawks have looked their usual run stuffing unit. After starting the season as low as the 30th ranked run defense, they now sit seventh in the league, giving up only 98.3 rushing yards per game. But they will up for another big test, as they face off against the leagues number one rushing offense. This will be the second straight week that the Seahawks will going up against the number one rushing offense in the league, as the Jaguars overtook the Eagles in that category after last week’s games..
The Jacksonville offense thrives on their run game. They average 149.4 yards per game, with Leonard Fournette leading the team with 822 yards on 207 carries and seven touchdowns. Fournette brings a bruising style of running, but has the speed to beat defenders around the corner. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will be vital in stopping Fournette. Both linebackers excel at making tackles in running lanes, and can beat running backs to the corner. If the Seattle defense can stop Fournette, the Jacksonville offense could be in trouble. They like to set up their passing game through running the ball, forcing defenses to stop the run.