As regular-season games go, it doesn't get any bigger than this Sunday's game against the Titans.
What is the definition of a big game? Well, a big game is any game whose outcome produces a radical difference in those team's prospects for the season. Given that definition, Sunday's game is huge.
With a win, the Jaguars will be on course to compete for the division title and the playoffs. In contrast, a home loss to the Titans would postpone or possibly even cancel those quests.
From the Titans' perspective, a road win over the Jaguars would be the equivalent of breaking the Jaguars' serve. A road win in the AFC Central Division counts one-and-a-half. In contrast, a loss would leave the Titans at 0-2 and facing a difficult four-game stretch of schedule that could sink their season.
Oh, yeah, this is a big one. The fortunes of both teams will be altered significantly by the outcome of this game.
In the Jaguars' case, this will be an opportunity to reverse the franchise's downward trend since the Titans claimed the AFC title in Jacksonville on Jan. 23, 2000.
Here are "10 things" the Jaguars must do Sunday to win.
- Stop Eddie George--If you want to beat Tennessee, it always starts with stopping George.
- Look the other way--We all know what Samari Rolle does to the Jaguars. If there's any one cornerback in the league who has had Mark Brunell's and Jimmy Smith's number, it's Rolle. So, look at the Titans' other cornerback, DeRon Jenkins, who the Jaguars victimized big-time when Jenkins was playing for the Ravens. Throw at Jenkins, not Rolle.
- Be aggressive against O'Donnell--The Jaguars were very successful with their "bend-but-don't-break" defensive scheme against the Steelers, but that may play more into the hands of Neil O'Donnell, if, in fact, he is the Titans' quarterback Sunday. O'Donnell works best against zone pass-defenses. He's not as effective at hitting receivers on the run; he likes stationary targets who've found a place to "sit down" in the zone.
- Learn from last season--Late last season, the Jaguars scored their first win against the Titans since September of 1999, when they were still the Oilers. How did the Jaguars do it? Well, statistically, there was almost no difference between the two teams. They each gained 334 totals yards, had the same third-down conversion rate (six of 14), the same number of penalties (four), and attempted nearly the same number of passes (24-25). The difference was Fred Taylor, who rushed for 104 yards. He's the guy.
- No fake field goals--Remember 1999?
- Don't be afraid of overtime--Remember 1999?
- Don't throw out of your own end zone--Again, 1999.
- Rise to the occasion--The Jaguars didn't do that on Jan. 23, 2000. This would seem to be their second chance.
- Feed off the crowd--At one of the most patriotic times in American history, and in one of this country's great military towns, the Jaguars should enjoy one of the most distinct homefield advantages of this NFL season.
- Stand united--The Jaguars didn't do that on Jan. 23, 2000, when the team was said to have fragmented during a halftime of bickering.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.