Los Angeles Rams vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley II gets away from Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor in the first half at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California on October 8, 2017. File photo by Lori Shepler/UPI
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley II gets away from Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor in the first half at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California on October 8, 2017. File photo by Lori Shepler/UPI | License Photo




KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, EverBank Field. TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Shannon Spake (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: Fifth regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 3-1. The Rams won 34-20 in 2013. This is the first meeting in Jacksonville since 2009, when the Jags won 23-20 in overtime.

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KEYS TO THE GAME: When the Rams get away from their strengths -- establishing a running game, spreading the ball around and avoiding turnovers -- they lose. They aren't good enough yet to overcome an identity crisis or sloppy play.

Last week, their alter-ego emerged and it cost them a winnable game against the Seahawks. Against the Jaguars, they simply need to avoid the five turnovers they committed against Seattle, be more efficient in the red zone and continue their upward defensive trend.


If they take care of the ball, they should be able to move the ball -- and score -- against Jacksonville. That would keep their defense off the field as much as possible to preserve energy in the fourth quarter. A steady diet of Todd Gurley and an efficient Jared Goff should be enough to win the game.

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Jacksonville will employ a nickel defense, with Aaron Colvin playing most of the game in place of linebacker Paul Posluszny.

Offensively, the Jaguars will continue to stress a strong ground attack that now ranks as the best in the NFL. Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory have proven to be an effective 1-2 punch at running back. Ivory spells Fournette just enough to keep the latter fresh down the stretch, such as for his 90-yard run in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh last Sunday.


--Rams QB Jared Goff vs. Jaguars secondary. Goff has shown great progress from last year, when he was winless in seven starts for the Rams. He has improved his passing percentage from 54 to 61 percent this year, his 94.1 passer rating is 12th in the NFL and he has for seven TD passes and just three interceptions. He'll be tested against a secondary that is among the best in the league. The unit ranks No. 3 in yards allowed. Last Sunday, it produced a franchise-record five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Goff's success against the CBs Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Buoye and Aaron Colvin will go a long way in determining the winner of this game.


--Jaguars LT Cam Robinson vs. DT Aaron Donald. Robinson has played well in his rookie season but is in for his toughest test thus far. Robinson has started all five games and has been solid, allowing just one sack and getting flagged for two penalties. Leonard Fournette has gained a good share of his yards running to the left behind Robinson's blocking. He'll be tested by Donald, a premier defensive tackle who has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons in the NFL. He led the Rams with eight sacks last year after posting nine and 11 in his first two seasons. He has one sack in the Rams' first five games this year. He's quick enough to jump by opposing linemen and strong enough to push them into the quarterback.



--Doubtful: CB Troy Hill (shoulder).

--Questionable: LB Mark Barron (knee), S Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring)


--Out :C Brandon Linder (illness)

--Questionable: WR Arrelious Benn (groin), G Patrick Omameh (hip)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Jaguars LB Telvin Smith. Smith is playing as well as any linebacker in the league. He has registered a takeaway in three of the last four games after returning an interception for a score last week against Pittsburgh. Smith is the only player this season to make at least 10 tackles and have a defensive TD in the same game. Smith has now recorded four interceptions in his last eight games, tied with teammate Jalen Ramsey for the most in the NFL over that span. Smith, who serves as a team captain for the Jaguars, is one of just three NFL players who have made at least 350 tackles, three fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and three interceptions since the 2014 season.


FAST FACTS: Rams QB Jared Goff has 547 passing yards, five TDs and no INTs in his past two road games. He is one of five QBs with 1,300 passing yards (1,360) and a 90 rating (94.1). ... Rams RB Todd Gurley ranks first in the NFL with seven TDs and second with 646 scrimmage yards. He has 364 scrimmage yards (182 per game) and four TDs in his past two road games. ... Rams DT Aaron Donald has 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in his past eight road games. He has 29 sacks since 2014, most among NFL DTs. ... Rams DE Robert Quinn has 10 sacks and five forced fumbles in his past 10 games vs. the AFC. ... Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has 2,018 passing yards (288.3 per game) and 14 TD passes in his past seven games vs. the NFC. ... Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette is one of five rookies in NFL history with a TD in each of the first five games. He rushed for 181 yards and two TDs, including a 90-yarder, last week and is the youngest player in NFL history with a rushing TD of 90 yards. He ranks second in the NFL with 466 rushing yards and third with 594 scrimmage yards. ... The Jaguars had a franchise-high five INTs, including two for TDs, in Week 5. They lead the NFL with 20 sacks and 10 INTs. ... Jaguars DE Calais Campbell has six sacks in his past five games and is tied for third in the NFL with six sacks.


PREDICTION: This is a surprisingly tantalizing nonconference game, with each team feeding off the play of its running back and defense. The Jaguars are an even tougher defense than the Seattle crew Goff & Co. faced last week.

OUR PICK: Jaguars, 24-16.

--Chris Cluff

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