As a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, I try to remain optimistic and positive. I think that kind of happened naturally as the team was downright awful for several years prior to the breakout 2017 season, and I had find solace in this team somewhere. Still, I haven’t been shy about calling this team out when they’re bad, either, and it is growing exponentially more difficult to have faith in this year’s squad following Jacksonville’s performance over the past three weeks.
With that said, I am going to do my best to remain positive, and that’s because of the Week 8 matchup across the pond in London against the Philadelphia Eagles — another team that had high expectations this season, but is struggling with a 3-4 record.
The Jaguars are 3-2 all time in the U.K. The first two games didn’t go so well for the Jags, but the club has won three games in a row at Wembley Stadium, and the players always seem to bring their best game with them. I am not sure if it is because the majority of Jacksonville’s starters are now used to the long plane ride, jet lag, atmosphere, etc., while the opponent is a lot less familiar and has to adjust, or if it’s the support the Jaguars often seem to receive from the London crowd cheering them on, or what, but I think we can remain optimistic about playing there.
Granted, these numbers are inflated a bit from last year’s 44-7 mollywhopping over the Baltimore Ravens, but over the past three years, the Jags have outscored their foes by a total of 108-65. That’s an average of 36 points scored per game for the Jaguars versus an average of 21.66 points scored for the opponents when playing in the U.K. The Jaguars have not scored less than 30 points in any of those past three games. So the offense seems to get a boost in London, but there has also been some defensive scoring taking place in those games as well.
In these past three contests, the Jaguars are averaging 345.3 total yards per game, versus 281.6 yards for the opponent. The defense has forced eight turnovers in this span, while the offense has only given the ball away once. Jacksonville has also recorded 12 sacks on defense, while only allowing five sacks on offense.
The one thing the Jags need to shore up in the international games is the amount of penalties. Jacksonville needs to play much more disciplined ball in London this time around, as the team has been penalized 30 times for 281 total yards (an average of 10 penalties for 93.6 yards) in Wembley Stadium during the past three seasons. Luckily, this hasn’t hindered the Jags from winning the games, and the opponents haven’t been too far off (27 flags for 253 yards), but still that is an obvious area that needs improvement.
Will Blake Bortles start on Sunday? That remains to be seen as the struggling quarterback was benched in favor of Cody Kessler in the Week 7 loss against the Houston Texans, and head coach Doug Marrone has publicly stated that the quarterback battle is “open” this week. Spoiler alert: we now know Bortles will start.
Bortles had a very strong performance in 2017 with 244 yards, four touchdowns and zero turnovers. In four career games in the U.K., Bortles has completed 74 of 130 passes (57 percent) for 923 yards (230.75 yards per game) with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions and a quarterback rating of about 93. He also has not lost a fumble there. Other than the somewhat low completion percentage, these are all very encouraging numbers for the quarterback.
That said, this Eagles team is still the defending Super Bowl champions and a very talented team. Despite its recent struggles, Philadelphia still boosts a very good quarterback and a strong defense, and the players are hungry for a win. Meanwhile, the Jaguars can’t seem to move the ball offensively, and have been turning the ball over at an alarming rate. This is definitely not going to be an easy game for the Jaguars, but the team needs to respond and fix its issues. London may be the perfect opportunity for that.
Again, every year is different, and something — or maybe multiple things — need to change for the Jaguars (perhaps Carlos Hyde will give the team a much needed boost in Week 8). All of this said, I think it’s fair to remain cautiously optimistic about Jacksonville’s chances in London.