Big games are relative in the NFL.
But within the context of the Jaguars' 2012 season – considering the record, considering the stage of the season and considering the good preseason feelings – within that context . . .
Yes, guard Uche Nwaneri said this week, Sunday's game against Chicago is a big one.
"It's huge," Nwaneri said as the Jaguars (1-3) prepared to play the Bears (3-1) at EverBank Field Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
"It's really a must-win situation to give ourselves some momentum."
Must-win? Yes, that's what Nwaneri called it. Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey stopped well short of that this week, and few players uttered the word "must," but few around the Jaguars would disagree the game is important.
The Jaguars enter Sunday three games behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South, and more pressing to some, they enter it knowing there is a bye week the next week. The thought of a two-game losing streak with the record three games under .500 isn't something the Jaguars want to consider.
"We've got go in to a bye week with a win," Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert said.
"We want to have that good feeling going into the bye week," Nwaneri said. "That is how we're approaching it."
At the same time, there was no sense of panic around the team this week, no sense that this was a time for drastic measures.
"There's no need for talk," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "There's no purpose in calling a player-only team meeting and talking about what we need to get done. We know what we need to get done. It's not about words, or big speeches. That doesn't do it for us. We see it on film. We have to apply it. We have to practice it a little better and be a little more disciplined, and produce Sunday."
Mularkey throughout the week also emphasized the need to make plays, and throughout the week one of his primary themes was that something just needed to go right for a team that has been close throughout the season to making critical game-turning plays.
The Jaguars have had chances at least eight interceptions this season. They have two, including one last week that turned immediately into a lost fumble.
Mularkey said the preparation has been good and confidence remains high, but what's needed is to turn those positives into a victory.
"I think the players, coaches, everybody is just trying to find a way to make these plays go our way," Mularkey said. "The approach has been very good. Every week, I've said we've had good practices and I can tell you we really have. The key is taking it from over there and bringing it over here, and seeing it transforming into making plays for us."
Sometimes, Mularkey said, one thing going right can change momentum.
"That's making a play, that's getting a turnover, that's winning a game," he said. "There are a lot of things that go with it. We've got to get a taste of it first, and see what happens when we get a good feel for it."
The Jaguars enter the game getting closer and closer to full health, with wide receiver Laurent Robinson (concussion) and linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) the only players ruled out for Sunday. Defensive end George Selvie is questionable with a knee.
The Jaguars also spent the week focused on an offensive line that struggled in a 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, allowing six sacks on Blaine Gabbert and letting him be pressured and hit several more times. Guard Eben Britton, removed from the game Sunday for Mike Brewster at halftime, will start against Chicago, and throughout the line the priority was to work on protecting Gabbert against one of the better pass-rushing defensive lines in the NFL.
The Bears have had 15 sacks this season, and twice have had five or more in one game.
"This is definitely one of the better lines in the league," Nwaneri said. "They play with their hair on fire, so you have to be able to match that, and stay within the details of your assignments. It's a challenge, and we're looking forward to that challenge."
If that's the line's challenge, the team's big-picture challenge remains getting a victory, and if there's a by-any-means-necessary feel to it, that is due in part to the urgency of the situation. There is, as the Jaguars have said throughout the week, a lot of football to be played this season, but with the bye looming, there's a long time after Sunday's game before the next one.
And no one around the Jaguars wants two weeks of talking about the same issues as have been discussed this week.
"Once we got to Wednesday, I started talking different schemes, different defenses, different personnel," Mularkey said. "I got over the previous one. I'm ready for the next one. I'm ready to get to Sunday. That other one, nothing I can do about it.
"Here, you don't want two weeks thinking about it. We want a good feeling. This team deserves one."