The week was about the periphery; Sunday is not.
That may be the most important thing for the Jaguars to remember entering these final couple of days preparing for the New York Jets – that while there has been a lot of talk from the opposing market about who's playing quarterback for that team and a lot of talk from the local market about who's not playing quarterback for that team...
All that stuff?
It's periphery. It's mid-week stuff. It's ESPN stuff, and it's NFL Network stuff, and it's local television, newspaper, radio stuff and, shoot, it may even be Twitter stuff.
But it's not important stuff. At least not once Sunday rolls around.
What's important isn't that Tim Tebow won't start at quarterback for the Jets Sunday, or even that Mark Sanchez will, though the latter means more than the former.
What's important is the Jaguars have four games remaining, and those games need to matter. You need to know if Chad Henne is your quarterback going forward, and you need to get the feeling back that you had a couple of weeks ago.
You need to not worry about the draft, and not worry about the season being over in less than a month, and mostly you need to remember that four games remaining means a quarter of the regular season remains.
That means there is still a lot of evaluation to be done, and maybe just enough time to finish strong and feel a lot better entering the offseason.
That makes the game a lot more important than the periphery, and here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to win that game at EverBank Field against the Jets:
1. Forget last week.Shoot, forget the last 12 weeks. You can't get them back or salvage a playoff spot. But you can salvage the last four games, and if you do that, you can still make the last six or seven games look good as a whole. That may not be enough to change many conversations, or change the overall perception of the season, but it has to be the goal for now.
2. Run.Can that happen with Montell Owens making his first career start at running back? Yes, and it must. Owens may not be a threat to reel off 50-yard runs, but he runs hard and can get 3-to-5 yards consistently. He can run well enough to establish the threat of the run. That hasn't happened enough this season.
3. Play your game.Not a lot of positive things are being said about the Jaguars this week, and when you are 2-10, it's sometimes difficult to remember you have been competitive in a lot of games. The Jets are not a hot team. This is not a mismatch. Play your game and do what you did well against Houston/Tennessee and you can win this one.
4. Stop the run.The Jaguars allowed 242 rushing yards to the Bills last week, but Shonn Greene is not Fred Jackson. Nor is he C.J. Spiller. The Jets aren't nearly as effective nor explosive as the Bills, but when you give up that many yards rushing one week, the next opponent is going to test your run defense. Be ready. And more importantly, get it stopped.
- Pressure Mark Sanchez. **Or Greg McElroy. Or whoever is playing quarterback. The Jaguars have 13 sacks this season, so it's not realistic to expect any sack records. But there have been times this season the rush has bothered opposing quarterback. The rush can bother Sanchez, but, it doesn't matter who's at quarterback. The pressure must improve.
6. Catch the ball.We'll keep saying it and saying it and...
7. Handle adversity. Too often this season, one bad play has caused a huge slide. It happened again in Buffalo last week. With the Jaguars leading 10-7, the Bills popped a long kickoff return and the Jaguars committed an avoidable penalty. Before you knew it, the Bills scored 27 points on five possessions. Negative things are going to happen. They don't have to mean you lose.
8. Get Henne back in a groove. He played well two consecutive weeks, and had moments last week even in tough conditions. The conditions should be better and this Jets defense isn't as dominant as the ones of previous seasons. He was 3-1 against the Jets in 2009-2010. Get him going again Sunday.
9. Get Blackmon involved.Shorts' situation is uncertain because of the concussion, but if he plays, he has been consistently involved. Justin Blackmon's production has been a bit more inconsistent, but he has found a way to contribute in each of the last three games. Keep that going. It's a trend that has to continue.
10. Be professional.There's a limit to how fun the rest of the season can become. For players, there may not be the giddy energy that comes with a winning season, or a playoff push. At 2-10, those things realistically are tough to salvage. But what the Jaguars can do is prepare and focus and do their jobs. Do that, and you can put yourself in position to win.