HOUSTON, Texas – Up next: The Tennessee Titans. The stakes hardly could be higher.
The Jaguars on Sunday beat the Houston Texans, 31-3, at NRG Stadium. Players and coaches talked afterward of a weird vibe in a game with no division-title implications.
That won't be an issue this week.
"This is what you play for, this is what you coach for," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence adding: "We all know what's at hand this week."
The Jaguars (8-8), winners of four consecutive games, will play host to the Tennessee Titans (7-9) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville next weekend. If the Jaguars win or tie, they will win the AFC South. If the Titans win, they will win a third consecutive division title.
"We play our best games when our fans are just in tune; we feed off them with the energy," Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. said. "We need Duval to just come out and be electric."
Said Pederson, "It should be electric. We're playing for the AFC South, and we need all our fans that can get there to get there. It's going to be a great atmosphere. Our guys will feed off of that energy, and it will be fun. It will be a fun one to coach and play in."
The Jaguars have won four consecutive games and six of the last eight, with Sunday's victory over Houston their first victory in the last six in which they did not trail. The Titans, the two-time defending South champions, have lost six consecutive games.
"It's a big game, but we're definitely trying to just keep the mentality of, 'Next game up,''' Jaguars left tackle Walker Little said. "We have a lot of momentum the past few games. We're trying to let that play for us and we're going to play hard and trying to bring one home for Duval."
Added Lawrence, "It's the same game. You can't freak out and make it bigger than it is. You have to stick to what you know and your process."
The Jaguars through eight games this season were 2-6 after a five-game October losing streak, trailing then-first-place Tennessee by three-and-a-half games at the time. A victory Sunday will give them their fourth division title in franchise history, their second AFC South title and their first South title since 2017.
"This is what you want for your football team," Pederson said. "You want to be in the conversation, and you want to be playing for -- for us the AFC South. We're playing a good football team. Listen, we haven't done anything yet. They're still the champs until something happens.
"I felt like and really feel like our guys are in a good place. They're in a good place mentally, physically. I don't really have to worry too much about them getting excited for this one. It's more about just locking in on your job and focusing in on your task this week starting tomorrow."
- The date and time of the Jaguars-Titans Week 18 game have yet to be announced but could be played either Saturday or Sunday. The Titans rested multiple front-line players in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys Thursday. "I would love to play Sunday, obviously, to have these next couple of days," Pederson said. "But we'll play when they ask us or tell us to play, and our guys will be ready to go. If I could pick, I would pick Sunday."
- Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk caught two passes for 21 yards Sunday, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in six NFL seasons. “He has earned it,” Lawrence said. "To see him have success [after] the work that we've put in together and to see how it's paid off and just the connection, the chemistry that we have, it's been really cool." Kirk has 78 receptions for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns this season after signing as an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals last offseason. "He has meant a lot," Pederson said. "He is a veteran player who we targeted in free agency, and he has been nothing but a professional here in Jacksonville. He works extremely hard every single day out there. There's a reason why he has the numbers that he does, and it's because of his work ethic. He has been great for the room and great for our team. I'm happy for him and his family for this milestone."
- Jaguars linebacker Foye Oluokun: "Learning how to win, that's the difference in this league. A lot of teams can be talented. If they're not playing the right way in specific situations, you're going to see them lose a lot of games. We're all feeding off each other."