The San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars are two teams going in two different directions when it comes to the 2017 postseason. Jacksonville has all but clinched a playoff berth and likely to win the AFC South, while the 49ers are playing for pride.
The Jaguars believe they’re on track to win the South Division title this week, as evidenced by linebacker Telvin Smith’s comment of this week being a “hat and T-shirt week.” Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster took issue with Smith’s comments and you can bet that will be bulletin-board material for this game.
The 49ers, despite a league-high 26 players on injured reserve and being eliminated from playoff contention, are following Coach Shanahan’s lead on having playoff intensity for the rest of the season.
San Francisco has won four of their last five games, including three in a row with new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Their win last week over the previously 8-4 Tennessee Titans showed everyone that they are indeed playing to win and Jacksonville should not take them lightly.
The Jaguars are playing well, especially on defense, but could get a lift on the offesive side of the ball as Leonard Fournette should return this week. Blake Bortles is passing well, but the story of the Jaguars is their defense. They are number three overall and have the number one passing defense.
Let’s breakdown Sunday’s matchup:
Jacksonville (10-4) at San Francisco (4-10)
Where and When – Sunday December 24th, 1:05 PM Pacific Time, Levi’s Stadium
When the Jaguars have the ball:
The 49ers still have a good front seven, despite missing a couple of key players, with DeForest Buckner anchoring the attack. He opens things up for pass rushers like Cassius Marsh and Elvis Dumervil. Reuben Foster is playing well inside and the run defense is holding its own.
It’s the secondary that has struggled so much this year, most notably Dontae Johnson. The Jaguars could be without Marquise Lee, which would be a blow to the offense.
Jacksonville will likely run a ball-control attack, showcasing Fournette and T.J. Yeldon in order to open up the play-action. If the Jaguars don’t turn the ball over, the offense should be able to be effective.
When the 49ers have the ball:
Jimmy Garoppolo has the offense in a rhythm and it will not be a walk in the park to stop. Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Garrett Celek and George Kittle are his favorite targets, but he will throw to anyone that is open.
Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida need to have big games on the ground if the 49ers expect to win, due to that deadly passing defense.
Calias Campbell will be the guy to block as he wreaks havok on a regular basis.
Garoppolo shows that he can play effectively against a very good Jaguars defense, but in the end, Jacksonville shows that they’re further in the process and finds a way to outscore the 49ers.
Jaguars 24, 49ers 20