Prior to faltering against other AFC North opponents the past two weeks, many looked forward to this game being a deciding factor in the Jaguars potentially securing a first-round bye. However, the aforementioned losses to the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns have Jacksonville’s focus shifted to marking sure its second-consecutive division title doesn’t slip away.
A win in Sunday’s primetime game would go a long way to sustaining the breathing room between the Jaguars and other AFC South teams in close contention — the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, who both secured week 15 wins to improve to 8-6.
As the lights come on at Everbank Stadium, these are the additional storylines to watch… brought to you by the numbers:
It has been 15 years since Jaguars fans have been waiting all day for Sunday night.
The SNF matchup marks Jacksonville’s third primetime slot of the season. They are 1-1 in these contests so far, picking up a Thursday night win in New Orleans Saints during week 7 and dropping an overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals just two weeks ago on Monday Night Football.
Prior to Sunday night, Jacksonville had played in the coveted time slot just 11 times during the regular season. The Jaguars carry a 5-6 record, with their most recent result being a 26-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 5, 2008.
Linebackers Foyesade Oluokun (138) and Roquan Smith (136) enter this matchup with 274 combined total tackles — placing them both in the top five among all players.
They are two of the most prolific defenders in the entire NFL, and they will play essential roles for both teams once again on Sunday night. As quarterbacks of the defense, Oluokun and Smith will be partially responsible for their team’s discipline against opposing offenses loaded with fire power.
Smith is poised to be one of the biggest threats to Oluokun leading the league in tackles for the third straight season. However, as this game approaches, both players are surely thinking about the bigger picture rather than that accomplishment. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to keep your eyes glued to No. 23 in teal and No. 0 in white.
Outside linebacker Josh Allen is one sack from franchise immortality.
The entire defensive unit has their work cut out for them against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Allen, one of Jacksonville’s primary impact players, will need to loom large and make his presence felt often to keep the Jaguars competitive.
If this happens, Allen stands a good chance to tie, or possibly surpass, the franchise’s single-season sack record (14.5) set by Calais Campbell in 2017.
This milestone would be yet another indication of how well Allen has played this year. Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus named him the third best potential free agent heading into the 2024 season.
1. Chris Jones— PFF (@PFF) December 16, 2023
50. Jordyn Brooks
The top-50 upcoming free agents with contract projections for each https://t.co/WfS4rzphwo
Baltimore leads the NFL in rushing with 157.1 yards per game entering week 15.
After allowing 156 yards on the ground to the Bengals, Jacksonville’s defense held the Browns under 100 yards rushing last Sunday. The unit’s ability to stop the run was viewed as a strength through most of the season, but inconsistency from the interior defensive line has made it another question mark.
The Ravens get it done by committee with running backs Keaton Mitchell and Gus Edwards leading the charge. Plus, you can never forget the potent running ability of Jackson. All three players have had at least one outing of 80 or more yards this season.
The focus on the run game allows Jackson to stretch the field as well. Even with superstar tight end Mark Andrews unavailable, weapons like Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr. have stepped up in big ways. Baltimore’s attack is dynamic and will stress all levels of the Jaguars’ defense, especially with the unpredictable playmaking of Jackson.