Jim Moore Predicts: Have Seahawks turned the corner, or will Jaguars give Russell Wilson too much to handle?
Last week I picked the Seahawks to lose to the Eagles 34-17, but they won 24-10, a difference of 31 points. As predictions go, it was as far off as you can get, but sometimes you swing and miss. No sense in keeping the bat on your shoulder, which is why I’m here again in this space, looking to connect this week.
We’ve asked on our show if the Seahawks turned the corner with their win over the Eagles – Danny O’Neil and Dave Wyman think they have, and they’ve got good reasons. It all came together for the Seahawks last Sunday night, finally showing their championship caliber potential in the 12th game of the season. It’s also December, a month in which the Seahawks typically shine.
I’m inclined to agree, but I also remember last year’s “turn the corner” win over New England. The Seahawks went 4-3 the rest of the 2016 season – I guess you could still say they turned the corner, but it wasn’t like they motored through the intersection on their way to the playoffs. Turning the corner suggests a dramatic difference, and that wasn’t the case last year. Two weeks after they shocked the Patriots in Foxboro, the Seahawks lost in Tampa Bay 14-5.
I’m also reminded of some of the games the Sonics played when I covered the team in the 1990s. They would suffer injuries to key players and somehow persevere in the short term. But it would catch up to them, and I think even with all of the success the defense had against the Eagles, it’s harder to sustain that level of play with backups replacing Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, and to a lesser degree Cliff Avril. In Avril’s case, it means more playing time for Frank Clark, and he’s a rising pass-rushing star. So there’s not much of a dropoff.
With Sherman, you’re filling in with Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. Maxwell in particular has been doing a good job, and I suspect that will continue this week against a passing offense that no one fears because it is led by a game mis-manager in Blake Bortles. Bradley McDougald said he isn’t Chancellor, but he might be better in pass coverage than the player he’s replacing.
If you ask me, the Jaguars’ running game isn’t that great, though Leonard Fournette has rushed for 822 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s been bothered of late by an ankle injury that has reduced his effectiveness.
On the other side of the ball, I don’t expect the Seahawks to generate much offensively either. Jacksonville has the best defense in the league and is especially good against the pass, allowing just 167 yards a game, 56 yards fewer than the Seahawks’ pass defense.
They also lead the league in sacks with 45, which means Russell Wilson will be running for his life more than in any other game this season. I don’t think the scramble fire-drill plays will work against the Jaguars, who have the best secondary in the NFL.
I have a hard time changing my perception of the Jaguars, who have lost 10 or more games in each of the past six seasons. But that streak will end this year – they’re 8-4 and tied with Tennessee for first place in the AFC South. I know this – I like their coach, Doug Marrone, simply because he enjoys bologna sandwiches. This guy can afford to eat whatever he wants, but he still has a thing for bologna, which has nothing to do with anything we’ll see in the game on Sunday. But I love him for it anyway.
Handicapping the matchup, the Seahawks’ offense is better than Jacksonville’s, and the Jaguars’ defense is better than Seattle’s. Jacksonville is favored by 2 1/2 because of the home field, but I’ll take the Seahawks because of the huge difference at quarterback.
Seahawks (+2 1/2) at Jaguars: Seattle 13, Jacksonville 9.