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Counting on home comforts

Winless Jaguars hope familiarity with Wembley levels playing field with NFC champion 49ers

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POSTED October 25, 2013 10:37 p.m.

LONDON (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to shake their winless start with the first of many trips to London. The San Francisco 49ers are trying to maintain current momentum.

They meet Sunday in the second of two NFL International Series games this season.

Jacksonville (0-7) is giving up one of its home games at Everbank Field to play at Wembley Stadium, where it will return in each of the next three years as host team.

A “home” game on foreign soil could be the ticket to beating the 49ers (5-2) and ending a terrible first half of the season on an encouraging note.

“I think it should help us out a lot ... in coming together as a team,” said Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who will start for the third straight game. “Especially in this circumstance where we’re 0-7, it definitely could be beneficial for us.”

There is an extra emotional tint to Jacksonville’s trip after coach Gus Bradley joined the team late due to the death of his father.

The 49ers, who beat Denver at Wembley three years ago, have won four straight games and cannot afford a slip-up in the NFC West with Seattle atop of the division by one game.

“Every game is important with Seattle in our division. So as long as they are winning games, we have to win games,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said.

Here are a few things to look for as the NFL closes out its annual trip to the United Kingdom:

Healthy Jags

The Jaguars are healthier with wide receivers Ace Sanders and Stephen Burton cleared to play, along with defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey.

Bradley held defensive tackle Roy Miller out of practice on Thursday to be smart.

“It was the first time that we had all the receivers in one of our practices, so another good thing,” said Bradley, who quickly made Henne the starter over Blaine Gabbert following back-to-back 300-yard plus passing games.

The Jaguars will need all offensive weapons in working order: San Francisco is the league’s eighth-best defense, with nine interceptions.

Wembley turf

London has been mild and sunny all week, but that still hasn’t kept players from worrying about the condition of the Wembley Stadium field. The pitch has been oft-criticized, especially during the 2007 matchup between the  Giants and Dolphins when rain soaked the field in mud.

“Everything is a lot better than last time. I’m not saying that it was horrible last time, but it shows how the NFL is taking care of things over here,” said Willis, referring to the 49ers’ victory over the Broncos in 2010. “I wouldn’t say I was fond of that field, I’d be lying if I said I was a big fan.”

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