NFL UK Preview: Philadelphia Eagles v Jacksonville Jaguars

Eagles fans Super Bowl
"Eagles fans cheering in the stands at Super Bowl LII, Minneapolis MN" by Lorie Shaull https://flickr.com/photos/number7cloud/39392724284 is licensed under CC BY-SA

The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles arrive in London this week to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third and final NFL London game of the season.

The pair were expected to be contenders this season. Neither have started the year well, however, with both sitting on 3-4 records as we edge towards the halfway mark of the NFL campaign. Philly and Jacksonville are still in with a fighting chance of a playoff berth, but this has been a rocky beginning to the season for each team. Jacksonville are chasing down the 4-3 Texans. Philly are looking to close the gap to the 4-2 Redskins.

Jacksonville are one of the league’s premier defences. Despite a poor start, Jalen Ramsey and co. have been solid again, allowing a second-best in the league 301 yards per game. No team in the NFL gives up fewer passing yards than the Jaguars. How their cornerbacks and safeties cover the multiple receiving threats of the Eagles will be crucial on Sunday afternoon.

The reigning champions have underperformed a little on the defensive side of the ball this term. They rank down in 24th in the league for passing yards per game. Against the run, though, Philly have been immense. Their defensive line has limited opponents to short gains whenever they go for the ground, allowing under 86 yards rushing per game.

Jacksonville’s offence has struggled this year. Blake Bortles was removed from the game last week after fumbles and interceptions saw the Jags manage just 14 points in their last two outings. Only the struggling Bills, Cardinals and Titans have a lower points per game than Jacksonville. Leonard Fournette has been sorely missed of late. He missed practice again this week and looks unlikely to feature at Wembley, which is a real shame as Philly’s run defence against Fournette would’ve been a fascinating matchup.

Injuries have hurt Philadelphia’s run game too. Jay Ajayi is out for the year, and that has put yet more pressure on Carson Wentz. Wentz has a solid completion rate for the year, but the Eagles have been ineffective offensively too often. They sit around the middle of the pack for passing and rushing. Wentz will need to be pinpoint accurate on Sunday against the superb Jacksonville defence.

Any defeat in the short NFL season is hurtful. With both teams under .500, a loss at Wembley would be a big blow. Philadelphia crumbled against Cam Newton last weekend, but they have to be considered the favourites given Jacksonville’s recent slump.

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Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play. Twitter: @SamRCox_