It's a short week. That means a short, to-the-point lead-in to 10 things.
The Jaguars can win this game. To do it, they have to play better at home. A lot better. They have to make plays. They have to pressure the quarterback. They have to do all of the things they haven't done enough of this season.
On Thursday, if you're the Jaguars, the nation is not on your side. The nation expects you to lose. They're tuning in to see the other quarterback and to hear the other team's feel-good story, and the focus is not on the Jaguars at all. That's to be expected when you've lost four games at home by lopsided scores.
You know what all of that makes Thursday night? It makes it a pride game. You want to at least change a little of the perception. You want to not be a punch line or an afterthought on NFL Network and ESPN tonight and this morning.
So, play like it matters. Be focused. Play with pride. You can't control the first half of the season, but you can control the rest of the season, starting Thursday night.
With that in mind, here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the Indianapolis Colts:
- Pressure Andrew Luck. The Colts' quarterback has future star written all over him, and he's setting a lot of rookie records. But while he was effective at times in the first game between these teams, he also made mistakes in the second half of the game as the Jaguars took control. The Jaguars' pass rush overall has been better the last few weeks. Keep that up Thursday.
2.Block Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Those names are familiar, and while the Colts' pass rushers are veterans, they're still capable of disrupting any pass play at any time. Get them blocked and you have a chance to make plays in the passing game. Don't and . . .well, you want to get 'em blocked.
3.Run. The Jaguars haven't rushed for more than 70 yards since a Week 3 victory over Indianapolis. That was before Maurice Jones-Drew got hurt, so his absence isn't the lone reason. The offense has thrown better lately, but you've still got to have the threat of the run. That enables you to . . .
4.Throw downfield. The offense looked better for two weeks when Blaine Gabbert looked downfield. In the first half against the Lions, the passes were short, the runs were ineffective and nothing seemed to work. Look downfield. The offense has to open up.
- Catch the ball. We're still saying it. We'll keep saying it. And saying it . . .
6.Cover Reggie Wayne. He's in his 12th season, and if he's not better than ever, he's still really, really good. The Jaguars let Calvin Johnson dominate the first half a week ago, and while Wayne isn't quite the physical receiver Johnson is, he's still absolutely capable of controlling a game. He'll beat you with technique, desire and ability to make the clutch play and it will take a big game from the secondary to shut him down.
7.Get both feet in bounds. It's basic, and we shouldn't be saying it, but we are.
8.Score points off turnovers. It hasn't happened for the Jaguars this season. It needs to – preferably early in the game. The crowd last week wanted to get behind the Jaguars. Oh, did it want to. The team never gave the crowd a chance. Let them get excited early. Make something happen.
9.Break the trend. The Jaguars have been outscored 116-34 at home. That can't happen. A lot of time was spent last week wondering why, and there weren't a lot of answers. Forget the answers. Forget the questions. Forget the statistic. Just get it changed.
10.Forget the story. The Colts are the NFL's feel-good story. They've won three of four games since their coach, Chuck Pagano, was diagnosed with leukemia. It's a moving, touching, real story, but it doesn't make the Colts unbeatable. They're winning close games and doing it on emotion. The Jaguars beat this team in Week 3, and they outplayed them in the second half. The Jaguars have to remember that and do it again on Thursday.