Jaguars hoping for better offensive efficiency against another elite defence in Ravens
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t fared very well against the NFL’s elite defenses this season.
They’re 0-3 against Cleveland (ranked first), San Francisco (seventh) and Kansas City (sixth), and they’ve failed to top 300 yards against any of them. It’s a hurdle the Jaguars (8-5) need to overcome against Baltimore on Sunday night if they’re going to avoid a three-game skid and stay in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
The Ravens (10-3) rank second in yards allowed, second in points and lead the league with 49 sacks. They are 3 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“If you want to get to the end of the season where we’re all trying to get, you’re going to play teams with great defenses,” Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “That’s what gets you there. That’s a big part of why teams are good. … Baltimore is a top team in the AFC right now. Defensively, they’re playing lights out.”
The Ravens have won seven of their last eight to move atop the conference. They have nine scenarios in which they would clinch a playoff spot with a victory in Jacksonville. More importantly, they want the home-field advantage that comes with being the top seed.
“We want it bad,” linebacker Patrick Queen said. “If we don’t get it, we make the playoffs, we’re still in there. We still can dance, and I think that’s the biggest thing. As long as we have our spot in there, then everything else will take care of itself.”
Jacksonville is trying to avoid a third consecutive loss to the AFC North. Coach Doug Pederson’s team struggled to stop the run against Cincinnati and then gave up way too many big plays against Cleveland.
Fixing those defensive lapses is high on the team’s to-do list, right up there with finding ways to generate more offense against another top-10 defense.
The Jaguars turned the ball over four times and finished with 293 yards in a 31-27 loss at Cleveland last week. They trailed 28-14 before scoring two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes.
In Week 10 against San Francisco, Jacksonville managed a season-low 221 yards in a 34-3 debacle against San Francisco. In Week 2 against Kansas City, the Jags also failed to score a touchdown and totaled 271 yards.
The common thread in all three losses: The Jaguars were outmatched with their offense on the field.
“It’s adversity. It’s what life is about; it’s what this league is about,” tight end Evan Engram said. “We’ve got the guys in here to figure it out and respond and turn this thing around. We’re sitting here at 8-5 and we know we can be better. We’re definitely going to go out and try to respond and get back in the win column.”
The Jaguars are playing on “Sunday Night Football” for the first time in 14 years. They have played in the prime-time slot 11 times previously, having alternated wins and losses. If the pattern holds, the Jaguars will beat Baltimore.
Jacksonville’s last Sunday night game came against Pittsburgh in 2008, a 26-21 loss.
Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike has at least a half-sack in 10 consecutive games. If he extends the streak this weekend, he’ll tie the NFL record held by Jared Allen, Chris Jones, Trey Hendrickson and Shaun Ellis. His streak has drawn attention from opposing teams.
“I’m starting to notice it,” Madubuike said. “A lot of double teams the last game. ... It’s coming, but that’s just what comes with it.”
The Jaguars are 2-4 at EverBank Stadium this season, hardly the kind of success they had hoped to find at home. Defensive communication was an issue in their last home game, a 34-31 loss to Cincinnati in overtime in another prime-time matchup, and something they hope to clean up against the Ravens.
“We need to play with our hairs on fire,” pass rusher Josh Allen said. “We need to come out fighting and swinging. Our back’s against the wall right now, and we've got to respond like it.”
Baltimore star Lamar Jackson is closing in on career highs in both completions and yards passing. He completed 265 passes for 3,127 yards in his MVP season of 2019. This year, he’s up to 252 and 2,934.
“Getting the ball down the field is a point of emphasis really every week, but there are different ways to do it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “For Lamar to see those two guys downfield was pretty awesome. We’ll keep working on that. That’s a big part of it. The better we can get throwing the ball down the field, we’re going to be a lot tougher to deal with.”
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