The Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles will each look to take a step toward turning their seasons around when they clash Sunday morning at Wembley Stadium in London.
Both teams enter the matchup at 3-4. The reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles have been mediocre in offense and defense, while the Jaguars, who are seeking a return to the AFC Championship Game, are searching for more from their quarterback and running backs.
The Jaguars have won three straight times in London, while the Eagles are making their first trip across the pond. This is the first game in London to feature two teams that both won a postseason game the year before.
The Eagles are coming off a 21-17 loss to Carolina in a game they led 17-0 — in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars are on a three-game skid.
Jaguars’ bumbling offense
Jacksonville’s offense is a mess. Quarterback Blake Bortles was benched last week for Cody Kessler. Meanwhile, running back Carlos Hyde was acquired from the Cleveland Browns to help offset the loss of Leonard Fournette (hamstring).
Coach Doug Marrone said the team is sticking with Bortles. And the players are sticking with Bortles as well.
“I believe in him; I always have,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “He’s earned the right. I know as of late he hasn’t been playing as good as he could, but earlier this year, he was playing some good ball.”
Bortles has thrown for 1,735 yards with nine touchdowns while completing 60.6 percent of his passes this season. He has been intercepted five times during the Jaguars’ losing streak.
Marrone said Bortles’ leadership qualities have earned him the right to keep his job.
“Sure, we need better [quarterback] play,” Marrone said. “But the bigger picture is we all need to play better.”
Eagles seeking consistency
The Eagles’ play on both sides of the ball this season has been less than stellar, and after the crushing loss to the Panthers, many don’t believe Philadelphia will defend its title.
Head coach Doug Pederson embraces that type of thinking.
“These are games that galvanize football teams, and this is going to do that,” Pederson told reporters. “This is going to bring us even closer together … pressure’s off of us. Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything.
“Pressure’s off so we can go play, have fun and just relax.”
Pederson pointed out the team has not practiced well. Despite a short week before flying to London, he expressed confidence the team could turn things around.
“We got to make sure we win the game during the week, right?” Pederson said. “If you win the game on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, chances are you’re going to win the game on Sunday. That’s where it starts. It begins with our preparation.”
Injuries have taken a toll on Philadelphia. The latest blow came Wednesday, when Pederson revealed that defensive end Derek Barnett’s season was over when he was placed on injured reserve after having shoulder surgery.
“We’ve got some options still,” Pederson said. “Obviously, Josh Sweat gets more reps and becomes in the mix but it’s a great opportunity for guys that are healthy.”
–Field Level Media