JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser checks in with a last look before the Jaguars play the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Thursday at 8:25 p.m.
Jaguars (3-6), Titans (2-7).
This one's bigger than the records indicate.
The 3-6 Jaguars will play host to the 2-7 Titans Thursday at EverBank Field, and if a mid-November game with two teams under .500 doesn't look big, there's nonetheless a buzz about this game.
That buzz is because the Jaguars are playing at EverBank Field after doing so just once in the last 61 days, and it's because the Thursday home game is the first of four Jaguars home games in the next five weeks.
If there's a homey part of the Jaguars' 2015 schedule, this is it.
The Jaguars also enter the game showing improvement in the third season under Head Coach Gus Bradley. They have won two of their last three games, and played well enough throughout most of a November 8 loss to the Jets to have won that road game.
The Jaguars also enter Thursday a game out of first place in the AFC South with the offense showing of improvement in the passing game and the showing an ability to stop the run. They still struggle to run consistently, and the pass rush remains a season-long issue.
The Jaguars split with the Titans last season, losing 16-14 in Nashville and winning, 21-13, in a Week 16 Thursday Night Football game at EverBank Field.
The Jaguars' bad news came early this week, with defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks out for the season with a torn triceps sustained last week against the Ravens.
He was placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday, and wide receiver Rashad Greene (thumb) was moved off the short-term, IR-designated to return list to the active roster the same day.
Safety James Sample (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve the same day as Marks, with safety Craig Loston moved off the practice squad to take Sample's spot on the active roster.
Marks' absence likely will mean starting strong-side end Tyson Alualu at Marks' three-technique tackle position. Alualu started the first seven games of the season there as Marks returned from offseason reconstructive knee surgery.
Running back T.J. Yeldon was listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week and may be a game-time decision, with defensive tackle Michael Bennett (hamstring), Otto linebacker Dan Skuta (groin) and wide receiver Bryan Walters (concussion) also questionable.
Tight end Nic Jacobs (hamstring) and running back Bernard Pierce (calf) were listed as doubtful, and running back Toby Gerhart (groin), defensive end Chris Clemons (not injury related), Greene (thumb), probable), wide receiver Allen Hurns (foot/thigh), wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring), defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee) and tight end Julius Thomas (abdomen) were probable.
The Jaguars need this one. They're fully capable of winning this one. They're finding strengths, and they're doing things well in recent weeks. They have a semblance of momentum after winning two of three games, and they have a chance to win two consecutive games for the first time since late November/early December 2013. If they do that, they're a half-game out of first place. For a 3-6 team, there couldn't be more at stake. Now, they just need to win.