Seattle Seahawks @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Start-time: Sunday, 21:25
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
Jags can exploit the deficiencies of Seattle's weak offensive line
If you want to over-simplify this match-up - and I think we do - its outcome all rests on the efforts of Russell Wilson. Post-game commentators will either be marveling at another stunning central performance from Seattle's main man, or bemoaning its absence. It seems it's a tightrope Wilson has to tread every week these days, as his once-stellar supporting cast has succumbed to questionable trading, injury, or the prosaic passing of years.
The quarterback could still single-handedly offer his Hawks safe passage to the postseason, and even pick up the NFC West for the umpteenth time in recent memory. For a win over the LA Rams, another of this term's surprise packages, should see Seattle hold a potentially vital head-to-head advantage in the divisional tie-breakers.
However, that's all for another day. Tonight, Wilson must thrive - or at least survive - on the road to Jacksonville where he will encounter the toughest front four in the game for my money. The Jaguars' bulwark defensive quartet have already racked up 35 sacks on the year, with an ominous rush that's so expertly-marshalled they often draw demand double-coverage, which naturally frees one or other of their crew up to get in the rival QB's grill.
Wilson, of course, with his twin-threat versatility, presents a very different game of cat-and-mouse. However, considering this mouse's tendency to roam free of the pocket (head coach Pete Carroll loves to call a bootleg) any similar predictability could lead to Russell becoming ensnared by yet another well-laid trap.
Such are my overriding fears for the Hawks. I feel, at home, that the Jags will succeed where Philly failed in controlling Wilson. If he rejects the early release and continues to beckon the oncoming front four, the Jags will get to him. Which then simply means Jacksonville need to minimise the mistakes on the other side of the ball in order to pull off a comfortable win.
Yes, that means you, Blake Bortles, an infuriating quarterback to catch right, but no less talented despite his erratic nature. Granted, Seattle are not Indy on defense. Yet the fabled Legion of Boom is not what it was (you can't get past Richard Sherman's absence), and if Bortles can focus on erring on the right side of caution with Marcedes Lewis, he can leave the rest to the Jacksonville running game and Leonard Fournette.
The Louisiana State recruit has gained the fourth-most yards (1,017) from scrimmage by a Jags rookie in franchise annals, but has not notched more than 57 yards rushing in three of the last four games. Indeed, the Seahawks are holding teams to 98.3 yards rushing a game, the seventh lowest in the league. However, with Bortles now playing more steadily and Bobby Wagner (the chief linebacker for the Hawks) suffering a few midweek niggles, they should be able to move the chains with relative ease.
In short, then, Calais Campbell and Co (unblockable in half their moods) can stampede over a depleted offensive line and bring the heat to Wilson, who I just can't see breaking free enough to open up his mediocre receiving corps. Simple. Told you.
Back Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) to win on the Match Handicap @ 1.991/1 or better
Back Jacksonville Jaguars (-1.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread (-0.5) @ 1.9720/21 or better
Back Under 19.5 Seattle Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back Over 75.5 L.Fournette Rushing Yards @ 1.9110/11 or better