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Jaguars accustomed to playing in London
The "X-factor" for Sunday's game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore will be the Ravens adjustment to flying to Europe for the first time and playing a game in England. It took Jacksonville three trips until they adjusted the routine that enabled them to earn a win. The Jaguars' first two trips to Wembley Stadium in London resulted in double-digit losses to San Francisco and Dallas. But Jacksonville appears to have its itinerary in check after four consecutive years of playing overseas.
Jacksonville's last two trips to London resulted in a pair of three-point wins, first over Buffalo and then last year against Indianapolis in its first divisional game across the ocean. The Jaguars are hoping the four previous trips to London will prove to be the edge that they need over the Ravens, most of whom have never played a game outside of the United States.
It's not something that Baltimore can practice for. There is no preparation that a team can do for taking a 13-hour trip across the Atlantic Ocean and have your body adjust to a five-hour time change. Teams that have made the continent-to-continent journey have complained about how tough it is to adapt to the long trip and time zone change. A number have not played well in their first such excursion, others have fared successfully. Of the 24 NFL teams that have made the trip to London, 11 won the first time they played there, 11 lost in their initial appearance overseas and two teams - Cincinnati and Washington - played to a 27-27 tie last year.
With 11 teams winning and 11 losing in their first trip to London, it doesn't give the Jaguars a necessary advantage over the Ravens. However, because Jacksonville has played there in each of the last four years, the Jaguars will have an edge in familiarity with the surroundings and certainly the fans. Jacksonville has developed a fan base in England because of its frequent trips there which could give the Jaguars more of a home-game feeling with the crowd support.
Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, who will make his fifth trip to London, thinks the Jaguars will have an advantage with its experience of playing in Wembley Stadium each of the last four years.
"As a team, as an organization, we know what to expect," Posluszny said. "We know what the game environment will be like over there. For a lot of our guys, it won't be a new experience. We should be more and more comfortable with going over there now."
But when the kickoff occurs on Sunday, the Jaguars middle linebacker said there is no longer an advantage for one team over another, no matter how many times a team has played in London.
"When that ball is snapped on Sunday, it doesn't matter whether we're playing here, London or at a local high school. Once it's time to go, everyone is going to be ready when it's time to play," he said.
On paper, Baltimore certainly looks like the better team. The Ravens have gotten off to a quick start with two wins and have played well. Jacksonville played well in its first six quarters this season, but then fell apart on both sides of the ball as well as special teams in the second half against Tennessee.
Jacksonville has put together back-to-back scoring drives to open the game in its first two contests, though both scores came on field goals and not touchdowns. The Jaguars will look to make it three straight such starts and build a lead like they did against Houston so that they can rely on the running game the rest of the way. Baltimore does not appear to be a team that can play catch-up if they have to rely on the pass. The Ravens passing attack is 30th in league rankings this week.
SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Jaguars lead series, 11-9. Jaguars won first eight games of the series starting in 1996, Ravens won the next six. Since then, teams have alternated wins in last six meetings dating back to 2005. It's the fourth year in a row that the teams have met. Look for a close contest. All but four of the 20 games in the series have been decided by eight points or less, including 12 of the last 14.