The winner will take a small step forward; the loser will take one giant step back into sole possession of last place in the AFC Central Division.
That's the importance of this Sunday's game in Nashville. Whatever chance the Jaguars or Titans have of resurrecting their playoff hopes would seem to rest with victory this week.
In the Jaguars' case, a win would give them an opportunity to reach .500 at the midway point in the season, with a win at home against Cincinnati next week. A trip to Pittsburgh follows that game, then come home games against Baltimore and Green Bay.
It's not too late for the Jaguars to make a run. Yes, they are already in a compromised position, but the schedule is favorable until the Jaguars make the turn for home with consecutive road games in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Minnesota.
In the Titans' case, Sunday's game will be followed by a visit from the Ravens, then a trip to Cincinnati before Pittsburgh comes to Adelphia Coliseum. This is the Titans' chance at recovery.
So, with the Jaguars' recovery in mind, here are the "10 things" the local team has to do Sunday to beat the Titans.
- Contain McNair--Steve McNair has always hurt the Jaguars with his running ability. Rushing the passer is wonderful, but not at the risk of letting McNair out of the pocket.
- Mix in some run, too--The Titans have the league's 30th-ranked pass-defense, and that's certainly inviting for the Jaguars, but they must make Jevon Kearse run-conscious or Mark Brunell's health will be at risk.
- Take what they give you--Injuries have decimated the Titans' secondary, which probably means the Jaguars should expect the coverages to be a little softer than usual. Take the short stuff.
- Special teams beware--Jeff Fisher always puts a big emphasis on special teams play. With Eddie George battling knee, thigh and ankle injuries, Fisher will probably try to make some plays with his kick and return teams. The Jaguars' special units must be sharp.
- Use the extra day--The Titans are coming off a seal-clubbing on Monday night in Pittsburgh. With an extra day of rest, the Jaguars should have a little more bounce in their step. Go ahead, be physical.
- Remember the Titans--This is still the same team that cost the Jaguars a trip to the Super Bowl; that beat the Jaguars three times in the 1999 season. Just because they're down doesn't mean you can't kick 'em. Go ahead, kick 'em.
- Stop the run--With or without George, Fisher and the Titans are never going to stray too far from their running game, and the Jaguars better be ready to stop it.
- Stop Wycheck--McNair is likely to lean on his favorite receiver more than ever, especially after seeing what Shannon Sharpe did to the Jaguars last Sunday.
- Be friendly to the officials--The other way sure didn't work in Baltimore.
- Think AFC South--If this was next year, the Jaguars could tie for the AFC South lead with a win over the Titans and a loss by the Colts.