DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: Russell Wilson is going to be the difference in Seahawks-Jaguars

Dec 8, 2017, 11:54 AM | Updated: 11:55 am
Seahawks...
The Seahawks will face some stiff competition for the NFC West crown in 2018. (AP)
(AP)

Russell Wilson is going to be the difference in this game.

Whoa, took a big risk there, didn’t I?

I don’t just think the guy who accounts for the highest percentage of his team’s offense in the NFL, the one who’s a leading contender for MVP, is going to make a difference, but I’m willing to say he’ll be the reason the Seahawks are going to win. Talk about a bold statement.

Russell Wilson doesn’t fit the traditional mold of an MVP, and that’s OK

Except it’s not just what Wilson does for Seattle that will be the difference, but the fact the Jaguars haven’t found anyone who can do even a fraction of what Wilson does at quarterback.

In that way, I think of the Jaguars as a weird, alternate-world version of the Seahawks. This Jacksonville team is what Seattle would have looked like five years ago if it had not drafted Russell Wilson.

The Jaguars have the defense in place just like Seattle did back in 2012. In fact, Jacksonville is playing even better. The Jaguars have 45 sacks, most of any team in the league. The second-most interceptions. They’ve allowed the fewest points.

Jacksonville also has a force at running back in rookie Leonard Fournette, who has at least some of the attitude that Marshawn Lynch provided in Seattle. Or did you miss when Fournette waved on a Steelers defender earlier this season, inviting him to a collision that showed Fournette would rather run through a tackler than around him.

It’s the last piece that’s missing in Jacksonville. It’s also the most important, and it was about this time in the 2012 season when the Seahawks knew they’d found their quarterback.

It happened suddenly in an overtime victory in Chicago when Wilson was so good he won the game twice. First, he led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive culminating with a throw to Golden Tate to give Seattle the lead. And then – after the Seahawks defense inexplicably allowed a 50-some yard pass that allowed the Bears to tie it – Wilson willed the Seahawks on the game-winning drive that culminated with a touchdown pass in which receiver Sidney Rice was knocked out after crossing the goal line.

“It’s a quarterback-driven league,” Michael Robinson said afterward in Seattle’s locker room. “And our quarterback is a baaaaaaad man.”

Well, five years after Jacksonville drafted Blake Bortles, the Jaguars are looking for a quarterback who’s not quite so bad, man. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes this season and completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes in an offense that contains a heavy diet of checkdowns.

The Jaguars may have a championship-caliber defense, but the quarterback is still using training wheels.

That’s going to be the difference between these two teams.

The Jaguars have a defense that’s capable of winning a championship, but they do not have a quarterback who can do so while the Seahawks have already shown that they possess both.

The Seahawks win if … they score 20 points. Doesn’t matter how. In fact, 11 points might even be sufficient. The Jaguars have held seven of their 12 opponents to 10 points or fewer this season, which is remarkable. That accounts for seven of their eight wins, though, which means that Jacksonville is 1-5 when its opponent scores more than 10 points, and it speaks to the fact that Jacksonville’s offense is insufficient to do much of anything in a game where the Jaguars defense isn’t putting an absolute whupping on the opponent.

The Jaguars win if … their defense scores. That’s not all that unusual in fact. Jacksonville’s defense has scored six touchdowns this season, a rate of one every other game. And it was a touchdown that Atlanta’s defense scored against Seattle in the first half that turned out to be the difference in that game. In a game that figures to be played in the teens, a defensive score would make the difference for the Jaguars.

Prediction: Seahawks 17, Jaguars 13.

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