Jaguars beat Seahawks 30-24, take outright lead in AFC South

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Blake Bortles threw two perfect passes for touchdowns, Jaydon Mickens set up another score with a 72-yard punt return and the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-24 on Sunday.

The Jaguars (9-4) intercepted three passes by Russell Wilson, including two on deep balls, and won for the sixth time in their last seven games. This victory, coupled with Tennessee’s loss at Arizona, moved Jacksonville atop the AFC South.

It’s the first time since 2010 that the Jaguars have had the outright division lead this late in a season.

The loss didn’t sit well with the Seahawks (8-5), who had two players ejected in the final minute. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch during a melee that included defensive tackle Michael Bennett and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

More pushing and shoving occurred after the next play, and defensive end Quinton Jefferson was tossed. Jefferson tried to climb into the stands after getting hit with what looked like a plastic bottle. Seattle coach Pete Carroll also got flagged for coming onto the field. Carroll walked into Seattle’s huddle, possibly to calm his players down.

The ending did little to ruin Jacksonville’s celebration, which had a lot to do with Bortles and the league’s top-ranked defense.

Coming off one of the best games of his career, a 30-10 victory against Indianapolis, Bortles was equally efficient and effective against the Seahawks.

Two of his better throws ended up in the end zone. He floated an 18-yarder early in the third quarter to rookie Dede Westbrook, the first for the 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist. Bortles’ second one was even better, a deep pass that hit Keelen Cole in stride and went for 75 yards.

Cole’s second touchdown in as many weeks came on the ensuing play after Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for a 26-yard score that tied it at 10.

Jacksonville’s third-quarter surge wasn’t done. Mickens zigzagged through the middle of Seattle’s coverage team and ended up getting stopped at the 1-yard line. Leonard Fournette handled it from there, scoring for the ninth time this season.

That was enough – just barely – for Jacksonville’s defense.

Trailing 27-10, Wilson avoided a sack and hit Paul Richardson for a 61-yard score. Down 30-17, Wilson connected with Tyler Lockett for a 74-yarder.

Wilson had a final chance to rally his team, but he failed to convert a fourth-and-9 pass from the Seattle 43.

Fournette iced the victory by gaining 13 yards on a third-and-11 play with less than 2 minutes remaining.

RARE MISTAKES

Wilson’s early mistakes left Seattle in a huge hole. It was the first time this season and the fourth time in 105 career games that Wilson threw three interceptions. It was his first game with three or more picks since throwing five against Green Bay in December 2016.

INJURIES

Seahawks: All-everything LB Bobby Wagner left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. … LB K.J. Wright (concussion) left the field late in the third quarter and was ruled out. … RB Mike Davis (ribs) was knocked out briefly but returned.

Jaguars: RB Corey Grant injured his right shoulder while fumbling a kickoff. … TE Marcedes Lewis jammed a finger on his left hand. … WR Larry Pinkard left in the second quarter while being evaluated for a concussion and was ruled out at halftime. Jaguars played without speedy LB Telvin Smith (concussion).

UP NEXT

Seahawks: Host the Los Angeles Rams in game that could help determine the NFC West champion.

Jaguars: Wrap up a three-game homestand against Houston.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Dalton, Bengals have ‘good outing’ in loss at Jags (VIDEO)

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Cincinnati Bengals were so sharp against Jacksonville that Andy Dalton and several teammates were done long before halftime.

Dalton led the Bengals to two touchdowns in three possessions, earning him a little extra rest in a 26-21 loss to the Jaguars in the preseason Sunday night.

“It was a good outing for us,” said Dalton, who completed 6 of 10 passes for 77 yards and a TD. “Two touchdowns in the first half of a preseason game is pretty good, and we got them both ways. … It’s a good feeling to do it both ways.”

The Bengals (1-2) felt good on both sides of the ball, too. Dalton found Giovani Bernard for a 19-yard score on a third-down play, and then Jeremy Hill capped a 9-minute drive with a 1-yard scramble to the pylon. Defensively, the Bengals held Jacksonville to just 90 yards in the first half. Jacksonville’s first three drives: turnover, three-and-out and three-and-out.

Cincy’s only concern in the regular-season dress rehearsal was the health of three Pro Bowlers.

Receiver A.J. Green left in the first quarter with a bruised right knee, but said he’s fine. Cornerback Adam Jones strained his right calf in preseason warmups and did not play. And special teams ace Cedric Peerman broke his left forearm and could be out for the season.

“It’s unfortunate guys have injuries, but you can’t worry about that,” Dalton said. “You’ve got to worry just about the stuff you can control.”

Safety Tashaun Gipson (bruised knee) was Jacksonville’s only injured starter.

The Jaguars (1-2) had bigger problems – the offense and defense both failed to show – that raised questions about what’s supposed to the franchise’s most talented team in nearly a decade.

T.J. Yeldon fumbled on the opening possession. Center Brandon Linder and quarterback Blake Bortles each were flagged for false starts to open drives. And the left side of Jacksonville’s revamped offensive line was mostly manhandled.

“We kind of killed ourselves. We did some stupid things, really, at every position,” Bortles said. “They didn’t do necessarily anything to stop up, which is a good sign because it’s a good defense. … We were comfortable and confident in what we were doing. We just didn’t execute it and get things done.”

DEBUTS

Bengals: WR Brandon LaFell caught one pass in his Bengals debut. Signed in free agency to help replace Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, LaFell also drew a pass-interference penalty that set up a score.

Jaguars: Playing his first game since tearing a knee ligament last October, LT Kelvin Beachum looked rusty. And Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, looked lost at times at LG.

ROOKIE WATCH

Bengals: WR Alex Erickson scored for the third straight game, stating his case to make the team. Erickson caught a 21-yard TD pass from AJ McCarron early in the third quarter. It was his second TD catch of the preseason. He also returned a punt for a touchdown.

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue got the start ahead of Dante Fowler Jr., but only because the Jaguars wanted to see Ngakoue get some snaps with the first-team defense. Ngakoue finished with two tackles.

POSITION BATTLES

Bengals: Second-round pick WR Tyler Boyd, vying to start opposite Green, had a 9-yard reception.

Jaguars: Fourth-year RB Joe Banyard ran 11 times for 54 yards, including a 7-yard TD run in the third quarter, and had his most extensive work of the preseason. Banyard and Corey Grant are competing to be the fourth-string back.

INJURY UPDATE

Bengals: LB Vontaze Burfict and TE Tyler Eifert were among a dozen players ruled out before the game.

Jaguars: Eight players were ruled out beforehand, including DT Roy Miller, rookie DT Sheldon Day and FS Peyton Thompson.

QUOTABLE

Bengals: “I do feel faster this year because I feel healthier.” – Hill.

Jaguars: “We played bad at every position and usually that is what happens when you play bad: you do not score a lot of points.” – Bortles.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Texans free agent signings boost Super Bowl odds at Sportsbooks

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The Houston Texans made a splash in the NFL free agent market this week, inking quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller to rich contracts. Those moves lifted their odds to win Super Bowl 51 to 20/1 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Houston opened the offseason at a distant 50/1 despite claiming the AFC South divisional crown with a 9-7 record last year, posting seven straight-up wins in their final nine outings, including a trio of defensive gems down the stretch in which they surrendered less than eight points per game.

However, the Texans ranked in the bottom half of the league in most offensive categories this past season, an issue the club hopes it has addressed with this week’s signings.

The New York Giants have also been rewarded at the sportsbooks following a busy start to the NFL free agent frenzy, climbing from 40/1 to 33/1 on the odds at the sportsbooks. It was a lost season for New York in 2015, as the club finished at a disappointing 6-10 while surrendering a league-worst 420.3 total yards per game.

The Giants took steps to shore up their woeful defense this week, adding lineman Damon Harrison, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and defensive end Olivier Vernon, and re-signing DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans were active this week after once again producing losing seasons, but have yet to see any impact on their distant Super Bowl odds.

The Jaguars added DE Malik Johnson from the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos along with rusher Chris Ivory, who toiled for the New York Jets last season, but continue to lag in Super Bowl 51 betting with 66/1 odds.

The Titans have added center Ben Jones, receiver Rishard Matthews, and veteran pivot Matt Cassel, and re-signed tight end Craig Stevens, but have a number of defensive holes to fill, leaving them near the bottom of the NFL futures at 100/1 odds.

The top of the Super Bowl odds remains unchanged with the New England Patriots leading the way at 15/2.

Despite the current uncertainty surrounding who will be under center for the club next season, the Broncos maintain strong 10/1 odds, alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Arizona Cardinals, followed by the Dallas Cowboys, who join the Texans at 20/1, and the Cincinnati Bengals, deadlocked with the Minnesota Vikings at 22/1.

The Indianapolis Colts have dipped to 25/1 following Houston’s surge up the odds, while the Oakland Raiders have seen their Super Bowl line rocket to 33/1 after opening back at 66/1.