In the final game of the NFL’s International series of this season, the San Francisco 49ers hope to enter their bye week with a fifth straight win against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
The two teams traveled a combined 10,000 miles and crossed nine time zones to play in London, and a drastic change of scenery could be just what the limping Jaguars need. This will be the first of four London games over the next four years for Jacksonville, and it's the first time the NFL will have two transatlantic games in one season. Next year the league will up it to three games.
The Jags are one of two teams left without a victory this season, losing each game by an average margin of nearly 21 points, and falling behind early has reduced the rushing game to dead last in the league (63 yards ppg).
The 49ers are favored by more than two touchdowns, but won’t take Jacksonville lightly as they try to keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West.
During the streak, the 49ers have outscored opponents 132-52, and running back Frank Gore has rushed at a 4.7 yard per carry clip. Gore has two 100-yard games this season, with 547 yards and five touchdowns, and has the chance to balloon his numbers against Jacksonville’s last ranked rush defense, letting up 153.3 yards a game.
San Francisco’s defense has remained one of the best in the league, despite missing linebacker Patrick Willis missing the last two games with a groin injury, and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith.
The 24-year-old sought treatment for a substance-abuse problem and is facing felony assault weapon charges, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the team hopes Smith can return this season.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has struggled in his first full year as starter, completing 57 percent of his passes for 1,420 yards and eight touchdowns to five picks. However, during the streak he has only committed one turnover, a sign Kaepernick has shaken off the extra attention defenses have given him after last season's blistering run to the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars quarterbacks have had many more difficulties this season. First year head coach Gus Bradley has split time between veteran Chad Henne and third-year passer Blaine Gabbert, with the duo combining for three touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Henne got the starting nod against San Diego last week, but Jacksonville’s offense couldn’t generate more than two mid-range field goals from kicker Josh Scobee in the 24-6 loss. Henne went 23-for-36 for 318 yards and a pick, and was sacked six times.
The limited offense has put a damper on the talent in Jacksonville’s receiving corps, and backfield. Three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging a career-low 3.1 yards per attempt, and receivers Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon have become a solid tandem with 64 catches for 875 yards but only two touchdowns.
The Jaguars are a little banged up, but only reserve receiver Stephen Williams is listed as questionable with an Achilles injury. Shorts has been limited in the last two practices with the same bad shoulder that afflicted him last week. Blackmon sat out sessions on Friday and Wednesday with a hamstring strain, but the big playmaker is listed as probable.
Point Spread: San Francisco favored by 15.5 points.
Over-Under: 41 points
Kickoff Time: 1 PM Eastern Time
Where To Watch Online: NFL Game Access
TV Channel: FOX
Prediction: San Francisco 34, Jacksonville 24