LONDON – They're all big right now.
That doesn't make the Jaguars’ game against the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium Sunday must-win. It's Week 4 and no team gets eliminated in the fourth game of a 17-game season.
But Sunday is important for the Jaguars. Really important.
The Jaguars, after a come-from-behind Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, have lost their last two games. Both were at home – a 17-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 and a 37-17 Week 2 loss to the Houston Texans.
This "10 things" feature outlining what the Jaguars must do to win Sunday will focus less on the Falcons and more on the Jaguars – not because the Falcons don't present problems but because most of the issues facing the Jaguars these days seem mostly about the Jaguars.
Head Coach Doug Pederson and multiple players in recent weeks have discussed the team's need to "get out of their own way." That figures to be a theme this week in a game that is very important – because all regular-season games are important and because how this team responds after a frustrating, unpleasant loss to the Texans feels like it matters very much.
The Jaguars on Sunday must show they can play relaxed, not press for big plays and therefore play to their potential. More important, they must show they are the team they believe themselves to be. Most important, they must win.
Here are 10 things they must do to do that:
- Get out of their own way. It has become a primary storyline facing this team. The Jaguars have committed too many errors in every game. It made Week 1 close and it cost them victories in Weeks 2 and 3. The Jaguars must make fewer mistakes in key moments.
- Relax. If getting out of their own way is the biggest early Jaguars storyline, relaxing is a close second. Players and coaches talked after the Week 2 loss to the Chiefs about not pushing so hard for big plays – particularly offensively. They appeared to be pressing early against the Texans, too. Relaxing's not easy when you've lost back-to-back games. Balance must be found here.
- Get a lead. It's difficult to play relaxed when you're playing from seven and 14 points behind. How much different would the Texans loss had been had the Jaguars taken a 7-0 or 3-0 lead from point-blank range on the first possession? Instead, they trailed 7-0 on the next possession and felt under pressure thereafter.
- Stop the run. The Falcons are capable of running really well and rookie running back Bijan Robinson is special. The Jaguars pride themselves on being a good run defense. This will be their toughest test of the season to date in that area.
- Get 'em all involved. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been the focal point of the Jaguars offense so far. That worked in Week 1, but Ridley struggled with drops and penalties in Week 3. There is plenty of skill position talent on this team. The Jaguars must spread opportunities among those talented players.
- Protect the quarterback. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has struggled at times with decision-making and accuracy early in the season. He must improve, but it's easier to improve those areas if he has more time to throw.
- Get on target. Lawrence has been OK through three weeks. He must be better than OK.
- Let ETN shine. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. has been the team's best offensive player through three games. He had 88 yards on 19 carries against Houston with the Jaguars having to go away from him as the game continued because of a double-digit deficit. He's an asset that must be used.
- Be special on special teams. Or at least don't hurt the cause. Kicker Brandon McManus missed a field goal and had another blocked against the Texans, and the special teams allowed an 85-yard kickoff return. Whatever else went wrong, that went really wrong. This special teams has been too good the past two seasons to give away so many points.
- Find a way. The Jaguars were a gutsy come-from-behind team. They did what it took to win late in a remarkable season. Maybe that's what it will take to scratch out of a current two-game losing streak. Whatever it takes, it must be done.