San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

At 5-0 the 49ers looked one of the best teams in the NFC if not the whole NFL but things can change quickly in the league and three consecutive defeats to the Browns, Vikings and Bengals has seen their credentials questioned.

They really need to get back on the winning trail and that won’t be easy as they travel to the Jaguars who are definitely trending up.

Five consecutive wins has seen Jacksonville enter the AFC playoff picture with six wins to their name and although they have some tough games to come (this is one of them) there are enough “soft spots” on their schedule to think that they will be topping the AFC South and heading for the post-season.

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The downturn in the 49ers season can easily be seen in this statistic, San Francisco are averaging 1.55 points per possession over their past three games (26th) after averaging 3.09 points per drive prior (second). Ball retention has also been a problems and turnovers will kill even the most talented teams, San Francisco have turned the ball over on 21.2% of their drives over that same three game span (31st) after a 3.7% rate in those first five games (second). In fact, they need to clean up their act on that score as the Jaguars have a takeaway on 17.9% of opponent drives, the highest rate in the league.

Methodical is the best way to describe the 49ers offence controlling the game is their main aim and we know the offence is run primarily through Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle, with QB Brock Purdy pulling the strings. We have already referenced this point but the Jaguars may allow their share of yards but that’s counterbalanced by the great job they do of creating turnovers and they have also done a good job of limiting the opposition in terms of points, the Texans are the only team to score more than 24 points against Jacksonville this year. You can’t accuse the Jaguars of having played some weak offences either having already encountered the Chiefs and held them to 17 points, Bills (20), Colts (20 & 21) and the Saints (24). Jacksonville excel at situational defence, ranking No. 5 on 3rd down and No. 10 in the red zone and linebacker Josh Allen is having an excellent season with 9.0 sacks.

The scoring prowess of the 49ers will be put to the test then although this game features at 12-1 in the NFL Weekly Specials Markets “Lowest Scoring Game On Sunday”. The two games that would appeal more in that market are the Packers visit to the Steelers (6-1) and the Browns and Steelers divisional battle at 11-2.

For the first five weeks of the season 49ers QB Brock Purdy was fine and there was very little talk about the fact that San Francsico had dealt away two previous starting quarterbacks in the shape of Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. Purdy dismantled the Cowboys in front of a national TV audience throwing four TDs against one of the best defences in the NFL. Since then though Purdy has been in decline and his form has matched the downward trend suffered by the 49ers. But has he been as poor as the common narrative has suggested?

Yes, he’s thrown five interceptions in the last three games but outside of those turnovers his efficiency has been fine. Against Minnesota and Cincinnati, Purdy completed 70.0% and 71.0% of his passes for 9.1 Y/A and 11.8 Y/A. He even added a career-high 57 rushing yards against the Bengals. Can the Jaguars pressure Purdy though they are 25th in the league in terms of pressure rate (31.2%) and for the season, Purdy leads the NFL in completion rate (78.1%), yards per attempt (10.4 Y/A), and a 120.1 rating when he has not been pressured.

Of course, Purdy has plenty of skill players around him led by RB Christian McCaffrey who leads the league in rush yards and reception yards at running back through the halfway point in the season, on pace for over 1,300 yards on the ground and almost 600 yards through the air, in addition to being on track for 26 touchdowns. It’s therefore no surprise to see McCaffrey priced at 8-1 in the Star Sports Specials “Most Rushing Yards” market although at 28-1 the Jets Breece Hall would be a lively outsider in that market if you were looking for an interest at a decent price.

Jacksonville to their credit have played stout run defence holding enemy backs to 3.4 yards per carry and two all-purpose TDs in eight games but McCaffrey has established himself as matchup-proof as an elite talent on elite workloads in an elite running scheme. McCaffrey has had his rushing yards line set at +66.5 (10-11) and he could well exceed that given his usage in this offence especially coming off a bye week and having fresh legs.

Where the Jaguars have really struggled is containing running backs through the air, having allowed the most receptions to opposing backs this season (60), so expect to see McCaffrey used in that role also. McCaffrey has found the end zone in every game this season and has both a rushing and receiving touchdown in three different games, so it’s hardly surprising to see him priced at 8-15 to score a TD.

One plus for the 49ers will be the return of WR Deebo Samuel from a shoulder injury and he has a history of being especially productive against zone-heavy defences and the Jags play more zone coverage than any team in the league and though they tackle well, the openings in that zone have meant allowing an average of 134.8 yards after the catch per game, fifth most in the league. Samuel’s receiving yards line is pitched at +46.5 (10-11) by starsports.bet and given his match up this looks a line that could be beaten fairly easily.

Let’s not forget that the 49ers offence also include another dangerous wide receiver in Brandon Aiyuk and while his role may be a little impacted by the return of Samuel, the Jaguars are vulnerable on the outside to receivers allowing 131.9 yards per game to that position, 31st in the league. Outside wide receivers are averaging 9.6 catches per game against the Jaguars (29th) with a 7.6% touchdown rate (30th). San Francisco TE George Kittle is a rather boom-or-bust character but with both McCaffrey, Samuel and Aiyuk expected to line up it may be a “bust” week for the tight end. The Jaguars do not offer much on the matchup side. They are 20th in receptions allowed per game to tight ends (5.4), allowing 6.7 yards per target (12th) and a 2.9% touchdown rate (ninth) on those opportunities.

There’s a chance in this that the Jaguars will have to keep pace with the rate of the 49ers scoring as if they get too far behind San Francisco will just control the game and they are home underdogs to the tune of +2.5 points. Although the Jags are on a winning run their quarterback Trevor Lawrence has yet to really have a stellar game this season although like Purdy he does have plenty of skill position players around him who the 49ers will have to watch carefully. Pressure may well be one facet of the game that Lawrence has to handle as the this game will give us the first look at the 49ers Nick Bosa-Chase Young pass-rush combination. The 49ers traded recently for the Commanders for Young (five sacks) to boost a pass rush that ranks 24th in the NFL with 18 sacks. They’ll be facing Jaguars rookie right tackle Anton Harrison and veteran left tackle Cam Robinson, who have combined to allow 10 of the team’s 19 sacks. Lawrence has only been pressured 29.6% of his dropbacks, the fourth-lowest rate in the league but he may face a whole different ball game here and getting the ball out of his hands quickly is going to be a priority for Lawrence here. When kept clean, Lawrence has completed 74.1% of his passes with six touchdowns, one interception, and a 101.1 rating.

The running game for Jacksonville has run almost exclusively through Travis Etienne who has become a real workhorse for the Jags offence. On the season, Etienne boasts the second-most carries (behind only McCaffrey)and sixth-most targets, and he’s run the third-most routes. What has largely been lacking is the robust red-zone role, having seen just 16 red-zone touches and only two goal-line touches this season. Nothing about this week’s matchup against San Francisco stands out positively for Etienne, yet his workload projection and explosive ability should keep him involved in the game and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go very close to his rushing yardage line set at +65.5 (10-11) with starsports.bet.

The more likely method of attack for the Jaguars will be through the air and over the past three games, the 49ers defence has allowed the seventh-most passing yards per game. Given this recent statistical trend, Lawrence should be looking to his two main wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk. Ridley gets a plus matchup with San Francisco allowing a league-high 11.1 receptions per game to outside wide receivers for 128.0 yards per game (30th). With Zay Jones missing the game through injury Kirk will have an increased role although if he plays out of the slot he’ll have a harder task than Ridley as the 49ers have allowed 6.4 yards per target to slot receivers (fifth), but they have allowed an 8.6% touchdown rate to interior wideouts, 30th in the league, which would make the 9-4 about Kirk to score an anytime TD look more attractive than his receiving yards line.

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Coming off a bye week the 49ers will have had a chance to get healthy and prepare but they do have to come across country for an early kick off and also meet a Jags team that is also off a bye and has been playing the better football over the past month. There are some portents within this game that could turn it into a shootout but the Jaguars are 4-0 vs. teams that entered with a winning record, which is tied with Eagles for most such wins without a loss. They have allowed 14.3 points per game in those four games, tied for fourth lowest in the NFL, so we would rather go down the road of this being a close one with it being decided by one score, with field goals being important to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

There’s no doubt that the Jags have a chance of winning this and with their divisional rivals the Titans facing a Buccaneers side that have lost their last four games the boosted 9-2 about the Jaguars/Titans AFC South Double looks very much a value bet that can be found in the starsports.bet specials.

ANDY RICHMOND

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Author: Eugene Morris