After defeating the Tennessee Titans in a potential trap game last Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers have re-emerged as a prime contender for a spot in the Super Bowl. Riding a four-game winning streak, the defense has returned to its dominant form, the run game is as effective as ever and the passing game is coming into its own with the revival of the read-option. Things may get even better tomorrow as the Niners match up with arguably the worst team in the National Football League in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Not so fast, San Francisco. While the Jaguars are definitely nowhere near as talented as the 49ers are on both sides of the ball, this is still a professional football team, capable of downing even the best of opponents of that opponent does not take the matchup seriously.
The Jaguars currently sit with an 0-7 record. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne have combined to form the worst quarterback tandem in the league. The fact that the two have essentially been alternating starts at the position illustrates just how terrible the quarterback situation is in Jacksonville. The quarterback mess combined with a leaky offensive line that just lost its best player, Eugene Monroe, to a trade has bottled up the running game as well. Once one of the most dynamic running backs in the league, Maurice Jones-Drew looks like a shell of his former self. The defense hasn’t helped, as it lacks playmakers at every level. The one good thing Jaguars fans can take from this season is the fact that they are almost a lock for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, giving them a free shot at standout Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Despite the atrocious mess the Jaguars are currently in, the 49ers cannot afford to overlook them. The first and most important reason is the fact that they still sit one game behind the Seattle Seahawks for first place in the NFC West, with the Cardinals and St. Louis still on their heels. Getting complacent and letting an easy one slip away could derail the Niners’ hopes for critical playoff positioning. San Francisco has been in the midst of their easiest stretch of the season schedule-wise. After the bye week next week, they will have to match up with Carolina, New Orleans, Seattle, Atlanta, and Washington in the second half. Letting an easy win against Jacksonville slip away due to complacency could be the deciding factor when it comes to playoff time.
Additionally, the Jaguars have two very talented young receivers despite the mess at quarterback in Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts. Shorts had a breakout year last year, nearly reaching 1,000 yards receiving on the season. While he has been slowed by injury this season, he has had some impressive showings, including a 143-yard performance against the mighty Seahawks secondary. He is a complete receiver, possessing both downfield speed and the ability to run crisp routes across the middle of the field. Justin Blackmon sat out the first four weeks of the season, but the last three weeks have shown why the Jags took him with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft. He already has 384 receiving yards on the season, with 190-yard and a 136-yard performances in his last two games. He is a matchup nightmare at 6-1, 210 pounds, possessing 4.4 speed. If the 49ers do not give him the attention he deserves, he is fully capable of shredding a defense, with or without the quarterback’s help.
In all reality, Sunday’s game in London should and will likely be a win for the 49ers. The Jaguars have a great coach in Gus Bradley and promising young talent in Blackmon, Shorts, and No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel, but they are still a few years away from being taken seriously. If the 49ers remain vigilant and on top of their game, this win should be in blowout fashion.