Preview: Stakes sky high as Jaguars host Seahawks
Time: 4:25 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t played a home game with this much at stake in nearly a decade.
An outside shot at clinching a postseason berth. A perennial playoff contender and recent Super Bowl champion in town. A chance to prove they belong among the NFL’s elite.
Some might even call Sunday’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks (8-4) a “statement game.” Not the Jaguars (8-4).
Jacksonville refuses to acknowledge what a victory against the 2014 Super Bowl champions would mean, even if everyone else does.
“Y’all hype up who y’all want to hype up,” said Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, chiding the media . “Y’all don’t hype up who y’all don’t. We were sorry last year, but we’re not this year. We ain’t talking about last year.”
Maybe not. But for a team that lost 74 of 96 games over the previous six seasons and hasn’t been this close to the playoffs in December since 2010, putting itself in this position is a huge turnaround and should be part of the discussion.
“You all have to stop doing that,” Ramsey said. “The media, y’all do that too much. Y’all been hyping people up; y’all hype teams. Stop doing that. Y’all got to stop doing that. It’s a new year. It’s a new league — everything.
“There are new big dogs around the NFL. Stop doing that. Stop hyping people up.”
If the Jaguars are one of the “new big dogs,” then facing Seattle late in the season should be the measuring stick. After all, the Seahawks are an NFL-best 20-5 in regular-season games in December and January.
But the Jaguars aren’t willing to go there.
“I don’t know if you can quite say it’s a statement game,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. “I think that we’ve proved that, if not the best, one of the best. It’s just going out there and collectively doing what we know and what we can do.
“A statement game? We don’t want to put that type of pressure on this game. We know it’s a big-time game and has a lot of implications. They’re trying to get their ninth win and set themselves up. We’re trying to do the same thing.”
Unlike Seattle, Jacksonville can clinch a playoff berth this week. Both are currently projected as the No. 5 seed in their respective conferences.
The Jaguars need a victory, combined with losses by Buffalo, Miami, the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Chargers to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007. They also need the Oakland-Kansas City game to not end up in a tie.
Seattle hasn’t even mentioned the postseason this week, surely because they’ve been there five consecutive seasons and 11 times in the previous 14 years.
One thing that has been a topic on both coasts: Jacksonville copied Seattle’s defensive scheme that carried it to consecutive Super Bowls, and the comparisons are an obvious story line. The Jaguars lead the NFL in scoring defense, total defense, passing defense and sacks.
Are the units comparable?
“Nah, there is only one Seattle Seahawks,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
Here are some other things to know about the Seahawks and Jaguars:
Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell will be facing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for the 11th time. Campbell is 4-5-1 in the previous 10 meetings and knows all too well what Wilson can do.
“I call him Houdini because he can just create out of nowhere,” Campbell said. “It’s like magical. You think you’ve got him and then he just does something crazy, breaks free and throws a touchdown. We have our hands full.”
The Seahawks flashed some semblance of a viable run game against Philadelphia. It took a mix of scrambles by Russell Wilson and a few flashy runs from Mike Davis for the Seahawks to rush for 101 yards against the NFL’s top rush defense.
Davis’ 64 yards rushing were the most by a Seattle running back since Chris Carson had 93 yards in Week 2 vs. San Francisco.
Jimmy Graham continues to be on a touchdown roll. The Seattle tight end is tied with Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins for the NFL lead with nine TD receptions. He’s caught TDs in four straight games, and all nine of his scoring grabs have come in the past eight games.
IN THE ZONE
Blake Bortles has been at his best in the red zone this season. Jacksonville’s fourth-year quarterback has completed 22 of 41 passes for 140 yards, with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions inside the 20-yard line.