NASHVILLE – Tonight at 8:25 can't get here soon enough.
If there was a sentiment in the Jaguars' locker room this week, that was it – that the prime-time game against AFC South rival Tennessee couldn't happen quickly enough.
The sentiment was understandable.
It was not unexpectedly a difficult week around the Jaguars – a week that somehow seemed long despite there being only three days between Sunday's loss to the Raiders and Thursday's nationally-televised NFL Network Color Rush matchup with the Titans at Nissan Stadium.
Slipping to 2-4 when more was expected makes things difficult – and makes weeks long.
A struggling running game and a rough game for the quarterback make things difficult, too. Add to that the aftereffects of two fourth-quarter player ejections last Sunday and you have a team that's understandably ready to play.
Mostly, the Jaguars want 8:25 Thursday to get here quickly because it's a chance to put last Sunday's loss to the Raiders in the rear view. Winning cures all ills in the NFL, and for the Jaguars Thursday winning would have the added bonus of keeping them alive in the AFC South.
What do the Jaguars need to do to make that happen? Here are 10 things:
1) Play good at quarterback.Those words are basic and elementary for a reason. There's no need for complexity. Blake Bortles needs to play better. Somehow. Some way. The Jaguars can't win unless that happens.
2) Stop the run.The Titans run as well as any team in the NFL. The Jaguars pride themselves on stopping the run. If the Titans win this matchup they will win. The Jaguars can't let that happen.
3) Stop the run.It's important enough to mention twice. It's also important to note that the Jaguars must stop the run despite nose tackle Roy Miller III being placed on injured reserve this week. This is not ideal timing for Miller to go on IR. He is key to the run defense. Ideal or not, the Jaguars must win this matchup. Somehow. Some way.
4) Stop the tight end.The Jaguars are better in this area than they have been in past seasons. That's good for them because the Titans' tight ends are good – and Tennessee is almost certainly going to test this area of the defense.
5) Force turnovers.The Jaguars have five takeaways this season. That's last in the NFL. The defense is better overall. It needs to be better in this area.
6) Protect the ball.This is the inevitable flip side of "force turnovers." The Jaguars have committed too many – and in particular, Bortles must protect the ball. The Jaguars' are 29th in the NFL in turnover margin at minus-7. The roster overall is improved. It's not improved enough to be that far in the minus area in turnovers.
7) Relax. Play your game.Jaguars players and coaches talked after the loss to the Raiders Sunday about pressing too much to make big plays. The eye test Sunday said there was quite a bit of that going on – and it hurt the Jaguars on multiple occasions. Relax. Make makeable plays.
8) Contain Marcus Mariota.The Jaguars' pass rush has been OK this season. It hasn't been great. It doesn't need to be great against the Titans, but it needs to contain the Titans' mobile quarterback, Marcus Mariota. Interior rush will be key in this game. The positive for the Jaguars is interior rush should be a strength.
9) Shut out the noise.This is a tough time for the Jaguars. Fans are discontent and there is more "noise in the system" than usual. A lot more. That's to be expected at 2-4, and it's to be expected when games look like they did last Sunday. Players talked all week about not worrying about the noise. They need to play like they're really not worrying about it.
10) Stay poised –and stay in the game. The Jaguars need to win and they need to look poised and composed doing it. There can't be the theatrics that occurred in the fourth quarter against Oakland. Here's guessing this team will be focused and poised Thursday. With the season on the line, they can't afford to be otherwise.