JACKSONVILLE – Sunday would feel big for the Jaguars under any circumstance.
It feels particularly big under this one.
The Jaguars will play host to the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Stadium Sunday – and if the Titans aren't the Jaguars' most-disliked rival, they're in the conversation. A Jaguars victory would give them three consecutive victories over Tennessee for the first time since 2005-2006.
That's big stuff, but perhaps not Sunday's biggest stuff.
First, they need to put the bad feeling of a one-sided loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday in the past. Players talked this week of being embarrassed in that game and it's time to move forward.
But perhaps most important is this:
Sunday is an AFC South game, and this one matters a lot. The Houston Texans (5-4), who beat the Jaguars at EverBank Stadium in Week 3, have pulled to within a game of the first-place Jaguars (6-3) – and a Texans team that has won its last two games suddenly looks very, very good.
The Jaguars, after also looking very good for five games, did not look close to good a week ago. They struggled to protect quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who struggled with turnovers – all while the offense and defense struggled with pretty much everything.
The NFL is a week-to-week league and Sunday marks a chance to make things feel right around the 'Bank again. It's also a chance to reestablish a home-field advantage after losing three of four games in Jacksonville so far this season.
Yes, it's big. The Jaguars need this one.
Here are 10 things they must do to get it:
- Bounce back I. The Jaguars have had four double-digit losses in Head Coach Doug Pederson's two seasons. They lost by 10 points to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022 and beat Baltimore in their next game. They lost by 26 points to the Detroit Lions later in 2022 and won five consecutive games after that to make the postseason. They lost by 20 points to the Texans this season and won five consecutive games to take control of the division. How they respond to Sunday's loss to the 49ers likely will define the season.
- Bounce back II. Same title, different concept. Lawrence called the 49ers loss perhaps the worst game of his career. He committed three turnovers, a lost fumble and two interceptions. Lawrence was under pressure with five sacks throughout the loss. But he must make better decisions and play better for the Jaguars to get where they want to go.
- Stop Henry. It has been key to stop running back Derrick Henry when playing the Titans since he joined the franchise. He's sharing carries with rookie Tyjae Spears this season. You still have to stop Henry.
- Don't let Hopkins dominate. Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has three touchdown receptions this season. They all came in one game against the Arizona Cardinals. That was the Titans' lone victory in the last five games.
- Protect the ball. This could be Nos. 1 through 10 this week. The Jaguars have seven giveaways in the last two games, with four in the loss to San Francisco. They have 12 in the last five games and 17 for the season. Whatever is "wrong" with the Jaguars offensively, that's No. 1.
- Force turnovers. The Jaguars are tied for the NFL lead with 18 takeaways and have forced two or more in six of nine games. They are 0-2 this season when not forcing a turnover. This defines the defense.
- Get Etienne in the end zone. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. has eight touchdowns this season. They are 5-0 when he scores. The Jaguars aren't a consistent running team, but getting Etienne in position to score is critical.
- Get Ridley involved. Pederson early this week said the team won't force the ball to Ridley. That's because the offense has functioned better this season when getting receivers involved "organically." However it happens, he's the best big-play threat and the Jaguars' hardest receiver to cover.
- Pressure Levis. Titans rookie quarterback Will Levis has played well at times, solid at times and has struggled at times. That's rookie quarterback stuff. The Titans' offensive line has struggled to protect their quarterbacks much of this season. The best way to force turnovers is to create chaos, and the best way to create chaos Sunday is pressuring Levis.
- Convert in the red zone. The Jaguars have moved past midfield and into the red zone routinely this season. Finishing those possessions with points, particularly touchdowns, has been far more difficult. Get that right and a lot of this week's post-49ers angst goes away.
Our time is NOW 🐆 Check out the top shots from Jacksonville Jaguars' practice this week as they prepare to face the Tennessee Titans in EverBank Stadium on Sunday 👀