JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to play the Buffalo Bills at Wembley Stadium in London, England, Sunday
The Jaguars are heading across the pond yet again.
This time, they'll be trying to break a couple of streaks as they do.
The Jaguars have lost four consecutive games after a 1-1 start, leaving them 1-5 in a 2015 season that began with hopes of improvement after 4-12 and 3-13 records in Gus Bradley's first two seasons as head coach.
The Jaguars this week also head to London trying to break a two-game losing streak at Wembley Stadium. They lost the first game of the current four-game series to the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 before losing the second game of the series to Dallas last season.
As much as breaking the streaks, Sunday also for the Jaguars represents a chance to play well, something they haven't done with consistency this season. They have had a chance to win five of six games this season in the fourth quarter, with key mistakes hurting not only in the last four games but in a Week 1 loss to unbeaten Carolina at EverBank Field.
The Bills look improved under first-year Head Coach Rex Ryan, but there is urgency to their situation as midseason approaches.
Buffalo currently holds the AFC's sixth seed and would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. Still, being in the same division as unbeaten New England and the surging Jets, the Bills could finish the season needing to hang on to the final wild-card spot they currently hold.
Buffalo (3-3) has victories this season over Indianapolis, Miami and Tennessee, with two home losses to unbeaten teams – New England and Cincinnati. They also lost at the New York Giants.
The Bills, like the Jaguars, have had significant injuries this season with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, running backs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin all missing time. Harvin is expected to remain out this week, while Taylor has a chance to return Sunday. Early reports also are that Watkins could miss Sunday with an ankle injury.
Matchups to watch
*Jaguars cornerback Davon House versus Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins.This could change dramatically based on Watkins' availability. House drew a difficult matchup this past week, playing well while shadowing Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for three quarters before allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Will the Jaguars leave House one-on-one with big-time receivers? Stay tuned.
*Jaguars defensive front versus Bills offensive front.This is a group-versus-group matchup because the entire Jaguars defensive front has struggled to create pressure this season. That has emerged as perhaps the key issue facing the Jaguars, with the team unable to consistently pressure passers by rushing four down linemen. Look for the Jaguars to increase pressure this week by using more creativity and blitzing. That will create opportunities for opposing offenses, but such risks have become necessary.
*Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon versus Bills defensive front.Like several other matchups in this game, injuries could be a factor. Yeldon did not play against the Texans because of a groin injury, though the running game has struggled for consistency whether he has been in the lineup or not. The Bills rank fifth in the NFL against the run, but are expected to be without defensive tackle Kyle Williams after he sustained a knee injury Sunday.
Jaguars to watch
*Blake Bortles, quarterback. He remains the story until he's not the story – and that means he's going to be the story for a while. Bortles has thrown 13 touchdown passes with seven interceptions this season. His development is a reason the offense has shown signs of life, but he threw three interceptions this past Sunday. And as often has happened with his interceptions, they were costly, with one coming at the Texans' goal line and the other being returned for a touchdown.
*Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, wide receivers.Right now, Bortles and the two second-year wide receivers are the Jaguars' primary hope entering most games. While their running game largely has struggled, the Jaguars have had success throwing, with Robinson continuing to develop into one of the NFL's most athletic, physical young receivers. He has caught 28 passes for 488 yards and five touchdowns this season while Hurns has 29 receptions for 460 yards and four touchdowns.
*Sen'Derrick Marks, defensive tackle.The veteran made his 2015 debut last Sunday after undergoing offseason reconstructive knee surgery. He played 21 plays against the Texans, drawing a holding penalty early. The Jaguars said he came out of the game OK physically, which means his repetitions should increase moving forward. He registered a team-high 8.5 sacks last season, and how he recovers and regains quickness this season will be key for a defensive front struggling to get pressure.
Keep an eye on …
*Robinson will be reevaluated Wednesday after sustaining a lower leg injury Sunday. X-Rays were negative. …
*Tight end Julius Thomas also will be evaluated later in the week after falling on the ball Sunday and sustaining a rib contusion. …
*Running back Corey Grant and wide receiver Tony Washington will miss practice Wednesday after sustaining hip flexors Sunday. …
*Running back Bernard Pierce will be evaluated this week and remains in the concussion program after sustaining the injury nine days ago against Tampa Bay. …
*Other Jaguars injuries to watch this week: wide receiver Bryan Walters (back), Yeldon (groin), wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring), defensive end Chris Clemons (back), safety James Sample (shoulder), and linebacker Dan Skuta (stinger). Yeldon missed Sunday's game, while Lee has missed four of six games this season. Sample has missed the last two games. …