With their season starting to slip away, the San Francisco 49ers could not have asked for a better time to have their scheduled bye last week.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, meanwhile, probably would’ve liked to have played in Week 9 instead of having a bye week given the way they’ve been rolling lately.
Two teams heading in different directions meet for a Sunday afternoon kickoff at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida (on FOX).
Despite losing three straight games before not playing last week, the 49ers still moved into a tie for first place in the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks getting blown out by the Baltimore Ravens in NFL Week 9. Our supercomputer is giving San Francisco a 92.1% chance of making the playoffs and a 22.4% probability of reaching the Super Bowl – only the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles have better odds of representing the NFC at 26.9%.
Our projections don’t have the Jaguars will making a deep playoff run, giving them a 9.7% chance of playing for the Lombardi Trophy – seven teams have better odds – but our model does like their chances of winning the AFC South.
Thanks to the fact they play in a mediocre division, the Jaguars have a 71.1% chance of finishing atop the AFC South. The division’s second-place team, the Houston Texans, have a 20.6% chance of finishing first.
While playing in the AFC South certainly improves Jacksonville’s playoff odds, the biggest reason the team is in the driver’s seat to win the division is because it has won its last five games (23-7 over the Atlanta Falcons, 25-20 over the Buffalo Bills, 37-20 over the Indianapolis Colts, 31-24 over the New Orleans Saints and 20-10 over the Pittsburgh Steelers) to build a two-game lead over the Texans.
Trevor Lawrence and the offense seem to be rounding into form, averaging 27.2 points during their winning streak – the NFL’s third-highest mark since Week 4. The defense, meanwhile, has been a takeaway machine all season, forcing 18 turnovers to tie the New Orleans Saints for the most in the league despite playing one fewer game.
In their last game in Week 8, the offense gained 377 yards while the defense forced two turnovers and allowed an opponent season-low 261 yards in a 20-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There was a time when the 49ers were dominate on both sides of the ball, but that must feel like ages ago for Niners fans. They beat the Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys by a combined 167-68 margin to open the season.
Since then, they’ve totaled just 51 points while falling to the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.
While very little has gone right for San Francisco lately, there’s reason to believe Kyle Shanahan’s team can turn things around coming out of break.
The offense should get a boost with wide receiver Deebo Samuel (shoulder) expected to return after missing the last two games, while the defense will also emerge from the bye with a new look with Chase Young set to make his 49ers debut.
Sportsbooks have made the Niners 3.0-point spread road favorites with the over/under at 45.5 points. That falls in line with our prediction that San Francisco is the best bet to snap its three-game skid with a 64.0% chance of victory and a projected score of 24-21.
49ers vs Jaguars Prediction
- Projected Winner: 49ers
- Win Probability: 64.0%
- Projected Score: 24-21
SF Key: Cut Young Loose
The 49ers procured one of the top players on the market ahead of last week’s trade deadline, acquiring Young from the Washington Commanders in exchange for a draft pick.
After injury-plagued seasons in 2021 and 2022, Young is once again playing like he did in his first NFL season in 2020, when he was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and selected to the Pro Bowl.
Young, the second overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, immediately becomes San Francisco’s leader in sacks with five – two more than Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave and Drake Jackson, who with three apiece make up half of the team’s total of 18.
Prior to the start of this season, most figured San Francisco’s pass rush would be one of the team’s strengths, but it’s been a bit of a disappointment and has struggled to sack the quarterback.
The underachieving 49ers are 27th in sack rate, sacking opposing QBs on 5.5% of pass plays, after having the league’s fifth-best sack rate at 7.5 over the past two seasons.
The trade to San Francisco reunites Young with Bosa after the two played opposite one another on the defensive line at Ohio State in 2017 and 2018, and the hope is Young’s arrival will provide more pass-rushing opportunities for Bosa as opposing offenses now have to prepare for two of the league’s premier edge rushers.
Despite being the focal point of opposing offensive pass blocking schemes, Bosa, the second overall pick of the 2019 draft, leads the NFL with 19 QB hits. The 2022 AP Defensive Player of the Year has produced a knockdown rate of 12.0 and a pressure rate of 24.0 – second and fourth, respectively, among the 40 edge rushers with a minimum of 100 pass rushes.
Young has 21 QB hurries and has compiled an adjusted sack rate of 4.9% – better than the league average of 3.7% for edge rushers.
It’s time for beleaguered defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to unveil his shiny, new toy, but Young and the defensive front draw a tough assignment coming out of the gate, as the underdog Jaguars have the league’s fifth-best pressure-allowed rate at 30.8.
Young will likely spend most of his time lining up against left tackle Cam Robinson, who has played well in four games after being suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Robinson has been beaten for just one sack and has compiled a pressure-allowed rate of 6.9. The NFL average for left tackles is 9.5.
Bosa can rush the quarterback from wherever, but with Young on the left, the three-time Pro Bowler will spend much of his Sunday tangling with right tackle Anton Harrison, who has permitted a team-high five sacks – but just 2.5 in the last six games. Since Jacksonville’s winning streak began in Week 4, Harrison has registered a pressure-allowed rate of 5.8 – the fourth best among the 32 right tackles with a minimum of 60 plays in pass protection.
Sacking Lawrence has proven to be tricky not only because of how well the offensive line has played, but also how quickly Lawrence has been able to get rid of the ball. By the time pass rushers have penetrated the pocket, the ball is usually already in the air, as Lawrence’s release time of 2.31 seconds is the fastest among the 33 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts.
Not only is Lawrence getting rid of the ball quickly before being pressured, the third-year quarterback is making good decisions and throwing accurate passes.
San Francisco’s pass rush has been pedestrian all season but theoretically should be better with the addition of Young.
However, if Young and Co. can’t put any pressure on Lawrence and he’s able to quickly read the defense, it could present problems for the Niners.
JAX Key: Pressure Purdy/Contain CMC
While the expectation is San Francisco will be getting one of its top offensive playmakers back in Samuel, it appears the lynchpin to its offensive line will remain out.
Two-time All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, and will likely be sidelined again. Even if he plays, he might not be 100%, which isn’t a great scenario for dealing with Josh Allen, who lines up on the left side of the offensive line a majority of the time.
Allen’s nine sacks are one less than the Minnesota Vikings’ Danielle Hunter for the league lead, while his 16.5 QB knockdowns are tied for fourth and 40 QB pressures are tied for eighth.
Williams has not allowed a sack and has not even allowed his opposing pass rusher to put pressure on the QB on a play in which a sack was recorded, registering an adjusted sack rate of … 0.0.
Backup left tackle Jaylon Moore has only allowed one sack in the two games he’s started in place of the 10-time Pro Bowler, but Brock Purdy has likely noticed a difference, dealing with more pressure in the pocket.
Moore has a pressured-allowed rate of 14.5 – the fifth worst among the 28 left tackles with a minimum of 30 plays in pass protection in Weeks 7 and 8. Williams’ pressure-allowed rate of 6.8 checks in better than the NFL average for left tackles of 9.5.
Purdy was instrumental to San Francisco’s 5-0 start and looked like a frontrunner to win the league MVP. Through five weeks, he led the league in passer rating (123.1), ranked second in yards per attempt (9.35) and completion percentage (72.1) and had nine TD passes to zero interceptions.
Since then, however, he’s played like one might expect the final pick of the draft would play, with three touchdowns, five interceptions and a 77.9 rating.
Not all of the 49ers’ recent struggles fall on Purdy’s shoulders, but when things were going well for the team over the season’s first month, things were much easier for the second-year QB.
Playing from behind hasn’t been a strength for Purdy, who’s completing just 54.1% of his passes in the fourth quarter while throwing three picks and compiling a 54.7 passer rating in the last three games.
Forcing Purdy to throw should be the focus of Jacksonville’s defense, and that objective begins with bottling up Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey leads the NFL in rushing with 652 yards despite the fact San Francisco’s ground game has struggled mightily during its skid.
In the last three games, McCaffrey has rushed for 43, 45 and 54 yards with an average of 3.7 yards per carry after averaging 102.0 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per attempt in the first five.
The 49ers are successful when they’re able to establish the run, but if they’re forced to abandon the ground game, that usually spells trouble.
No team ran the ball at a higher rate than the 49ers through the first five weeks of the season with San Francisco keeping the ball on the ground 54.4% of the time. (Through five weeks, the Ravens were the only other team to run more than half the time at 50.9%.)
Since the losing streak began in Week 6, however, the Niners are running just 42.7% of the time to rank 15th in the league.
With Roy Robertson-Harris and Foley Fatukasi on the line, the Jaguars are built to stop the run, ranking third in opponent rushing yards per game (79.3) and fourth in opponent rushing yards per attempt (3.60). The 255 rushing yards they’ve allowed in the last four games is the franchise’s fewest over a four-game span in a single season since early in 2007.
When running plays are expected on first down, Jacksonville is best in the NFL in snuffing out the run.
Average Rushing Yards Allowed on First Down
- Jacksonville Jaguars (3.37)
- Detroit Lions (3.45)
- Houston Texans (3.55)
- San Francisco 49ers (3.61)
- Philadelphia Eagles (3.68)
In their last game, they limited the Steelers to 70 rushing yards, forcing Pittsburgh to rely on the arm of Kenny Pickett – and later Mitch Trubisky after Pickett was injured.
That obviously worked out positively for Jacksonville.
This will be the Jags’ first meeting with the 49ers since 2021, and San Francisco has won the last four matchups since Jacksonville’s 10-9 win back in 2005.
If the Jaguars can win this one, they’ll achieve their longest single-season winning streak since a franchise-record 11-gamer in 1999.