It'll be the defining game of the season. We all know it. These kinds of games just jump out at you, as the two in Pittsburgh late last season did.
One way or another, this Sunday's game will be the one to which we point in the offseason to explain what happened to the Jaguars in 2008. It'll go like this:
• Should the Jaguars beat the 9-0 Titans on Sunday, we'll point to this game as confirmation of the high expectations we had for the Jaguars heading into the season. We'll decide that the Jags really were a playoff-caliber team, it's just that an early-season storm of injuries and narrow defeats sabotaged the team's fate.
• Or, should the Jaguars lose for the second time this season to the Titans, we'll point to this game as confirmation that our high expectations for the Jaguars were unfounded and nothing more than hype, and that the team and its fans each need to acknowledge that the Jaguars' window of opportunity may have, in fact, closed in the playoffs in New England last winter.
This is the game that'll decide which explanation we are to attach to this season. A win on Sunday would allow the Jaguars to cling to flickering postseason hope, but more than likely this season is not going to end in the postseason. More than likely, it'll end in Baltimore three days after Christmas and we'll be left to reflect on our memories of '08, and what happens this Sunday is likely to be chief among them.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Titans.
- Stop the run—The Titans aren't the same team when they have to abandon the run. When you stop their running game, they become just another team.
- Out-coach them—It's going to take some of that on the Jaguars' part because the Titans would appear to be physically superior up front.
- Run the ball—The Titans are banged up on defense and their rush-defense has fallen to number eight in the league. They are not impenetrable.
- Play smart coverage—Kerry Collins doesn't have big-play receivers so he has to nibble at the holes in the secondary. Limiting those gaps in coverage will make Collins' task difficult.
- Play at a higher level—Energy can do a lot for a team. This should be the Jaguars' highest-energy game of the season. The Titans may be weary of defending their perfect record.
- Give it a shot—No, it doesn't look good for making the playoffs, but get the record back to .500 and live to fight another day and you never know what might happen.
- Defend the screen pass—The Titans love to screen. They do it with backs and tight ends and they'll do it on any down and from anywhere on the field.
- Treat the fans—Jaguars fans have had a tough home season; three losses in the last four games. They deserve a victory.
- Win special teams—This is a must any time you play the Titans.
- Win the QB battle—David Garrard must out-play Collins.