JACKSONVILLE – Here are ten things the Jacksonville Jaguars must do to beat the Seattle Seahawks . . .
1. Shut out da noise I:It's noisy in CenturyLink Field in Seattle – as in, record-setting noisy. The Seahawks' crowd last Sunday against San Francisco registered a roar of 136.6 decibels, setting a Guinness Book of World Records record for loudest roar in a sports stadium, breaking a record set earlier in the game. The noise absolutely is a factor. It's "dome loud" and then some. There will be communication issues, and there will be hand signals. Mostly, you just have to deal with it.
2. Trust Cecil Shorts III:Look for Shorts to get more one-on-one coverage than he has the first two games. The Seahawks play aggressive man-to-man defense, and the Jaguars don't expect that to change Sunday. Shorts hasn't seen many single looks this season. He will Sunday, and the Jaguars have to trust him to beat it.
3. Forget the spread. The point-spread Sunday is big – real big. Almost record-setting big. It doesn't matter. This is the NFL, and any team can beat another. Jaguars players have been saying all week they don't care about the spread. They sound like they mean it. Play like it.
4. Fill gaps.The Jaguars allowed 226 yards rushing to the Raiders last week, with a lot of the yards coming on what Head Coach Gus Bradley calls "explosive runs" – runs of 12 or more yards. Explosive runs in the Jaguars' defense often happen when a player or two doesn't fill the right gap. With the Jaguars playing eight-man fronts, that means a large gain. A lot of it's being a young defense. A lot of it is having a lot of miscommunication. Whatever it is, you can't do it against Seattle.
5. Block the front.The Seahawks are a very, very good defense, but they're not known for rushing the passer. Still, the Jaguars have struggled enough pass blocking that this is a concern. The Jaguars allowed seven sacks in the regular-season opener against Kansas City and five against the Raiders last week. That's a number that needs to keep going in that direction.
6. Contain Russell Wilson.Wilson, the Seahawks' second-year quarterback, doesn't dazzle with statistics, and he's not yet in that group of elite five or so quarterbacks. But he's clutch, and he doesn't fit neatly into one category. "They still run some zone options and he still scrambles around and makes the plays, but he can set up in the pocket and he can make plays in the pocket," Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "You've got to be ready for all the different phases of his game. He creates a lot of different problems and it's a great challenge for us defensively."
7. Get in third-and-manageable.The Jaguars have struggled offensively, and while observers have pointed to reason after reason, a lot of it has been a lack of success on early downs. That has created a lot of second- and third-and-long situations. That's difficult enough for any team, but for a team without an elite quarterback and without a core of veteran receivers it just creates very difficult situations to overcome.
8. Keep it simple.Bradley talked this week about paring down the offense and defense, particularly the offense. This prompted some to say, "How much more simple could it get?" Cute, but the barb misses the point. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch is creative and has plenty of options. But right now, this is a young team and experience is particularly limited at the receiver position. The coaches want to simplify the offense and get the unit running plays full speed and with confidence. Once that happens, diversity will come in stages.
9. Avoid mistakes.This is always a key, but for the Jaguars, it's a particular focus. The Seattle crowd will feed off Jaguars penalties if they occur, and turnovers in that environment can turn into an avalanche. Bradley talked this week about the need to eliminate mental mistakes. That matters this week as much or more than other. Make them this week, and this game could get out of hand in a hurry.
10. Shut out da noise II:Whatever the spread, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone picking the Jaguars this weekend. Not analysts. Not media. Not fans. You know what? So what? Make some plays early. Force turnovers. Get ahead. Play loose. Bradley talked about this being an opportunity. He's right. Take it. Shut out the noise, and who knows: Maybe you can shock the world, or at least the oddsmakers and all of those observers.