The Jaguars and their tormentor, the Tennessee Titans, are locked in a battle for first place. What? That's right, a battle for first place in the rush-defense rankings.
Tennessee is currently the league's number one defense against the run with 910 net yards rushing allowed, while the Jaguars are number two at 1,025. What that means is the Jaguars are 115 yards behind the Titans, and even though that's a significant amount, it's a gap that can be closed if the Jaguars continue to play as they have since the start of November. The Jaguars have kept each of their last four opponents under 100 yards rushing, and November began with the Ravens squeezing out only 103 yards rushing against the Jags. The fact of the matter is the Jaguars have been the league's number one rush-defense in the second half of the season.
So, what chance do the Jaguars have of catching the Titans? Well, in their final four games, the Jaguars will face teams whose running games are currently ranked 18th, 24th, fifth and 19th. New Orleans, which is fifth, will be the big test. The Jaguars must stop Deuce McAllister to have any chance of overtaking the Titans.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, the Titans have a cupcake stop-the-run finishing schedule. They play the Colts (28th in rushing), the Bills (21st), the Texans (18th) and the Bucs (23rd).
That's something that might hold our interest through the end of the season.
Now here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Texans this Sunday.
- Forget that first game—This is not the same Texans team the Jaguars faced in Houston in week four. These Texans are vastly improved over the team the Jaguars allowed to rally for a win. These Texans are playing everybody tough.
- Stay the course—This hasn't been a season of rich rewards for the Jaguars. Hopefully, that'll come next season. But it's important to finish strong. This is December. This is when you find out who really wants to play this game.
- Score points—It's not enough to play hard. It doesn't do any good to run the ball and stop the run if you don't score points, because you can't win if you don't score.
- Play hard—The Texans play hard; ask the Patriots and the Bills. Dom Capers has his team believing they are heading for something big in their future. The Texans have bought into Capers' program and they are playing with a sense of pride for who they are and what they might become. They are using the second half of this season to make a statement about themselves, much as Capers' inaugural-season Carolina team did in 1995.
- Get your hands up—Quarterback David Carr has a low release point, as witnessed by the Jaguars having tipped several of his passes in that week-four game at Reliant Stadium. Marcus Stroud and John Henderson represent two of the tallest defensive tackles in the league, and that should pose a continued problem for Carr.
- Rally 'round the quarterback— He needs his teammates' support. The quarterback position has fallen on hard times in the second half of this season. One of the most critical challenges of the final month of this season is to build hope at that position to carry into next year.
- Look into the future—The Jaguars believe they are a team on the rise; a team with a bright future. Prove it. That's what the Texans are attempting to do. In fact, this game might portend the AFC South's future balance of power.
- Remember last year—This game last season went a long way toward wrecking the Jaguars' season, and it was a crossfield lateral on a punt return that was the impetus to the Texans' first-ever road win.
- Finish the season—Don't quit now. That's killer stuff. Finish strong.
- Win the rookie battle—The Jaguars and Texans have two of the best rookie classes in the NFL. The Texans are getting mega-production out of Andre Johnson and Domanick Davis, and each of the Jaguars' first-day picks is starting. Is this a battle of the draft classes? You betcha.