JACKSONVILLE – The lights will be bright, and the attention will be intense.
Doug Pederson knows this, but the Jaguars' head coach said something else is as important entering the franchise's first Monday Night Football game in a dozen years:
"You're in that lead in the AFC South, but at the same time, you look up at the AFC and there are bigger things for this team," Pederson said as the Jaguars (8-3) prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) at EverBank Stadium Monday at 8:15 p.m.
"Our focus has to be just that."
The Jaguars enter the weekend two games ahead of the Houston Texans (6-5) and the Indianapolis Colts (6-5) in the AFC South. They hold the season-ending tiebreaker advantage over the Texans because of a better division record and over the Colts because of season sweep in the head-to-head series.
They also enter the weekend as the No. 3 seed in the AFC behind the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (8-3). They are tied with the Ravens, Chiefs and the 8-3 Miami Dolphins for the fewest losses in the AFC.
"If you want to talk about the No. 1 seed, we've put ourselves in a situation where that's attainable," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "We're right there in the mix. We're not oblivious to that fact. We're taking it one game at a time and you have to win one game at a time to get there. But we understand that that's a real, that's something that's reachable for us and that we can do.
"It's still early in the year. We're getting towards the back half, but you can't get too far ahead of yourself. We understand what we can accomplish and what we can do. Being in the moment is really big."
The Bengals game will be the Jaguars' first on Monday Night Football since they lost to the then-San Diego Chargers, 38-14, on December 5, 2011. The Jaguars are 8-7 on MNF, 7-4 in Jacksonville.
"It's more cameras and a little more atmosphere," wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. "You don't have to get yourself feeling it. It will be there for you."
The Bengals, who enter Monday with quarterback Joe Burrow out for the season with a wrist injury, have played eight prime-time games in 2022-2023.
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"It's just big moments," Pederson said. "We haven't had many. This team we're playing has been in a lot recently. It's just how we handle that and how we approach it. You just keep things the same."
This is the Jaguars' fifth prime-time game since Pederson arrived as head coach in 2022. They beat the New York Jets on the road on Thursday Night Football in Week 16 last season, beat the Tennessee Titans at home on a Saturday night in Week 18 last season and beat the Los Angeles Chargers at home on a Saturday night in an AFC Wild Card Playoff last season. They beat the New Orleans Saints on the road, 31-24, on Thursday Night Football on October 19 in Week 7.
Pederson said as of Thursday he sensed no difference in urgency or approach this week.
"Maybe the closer we get to the game, possibly," Pederson said. "One of the things that I'm going to keep talking to these guys about is just controlling emotion, just staying in the moment and just focusing on their job this week.
"You don't have to go out of your way or do anything extra special. Just do your process."
Pederson said while playing on Monday shortens preparation time for the following week, a Monday game should have no negative affect for that week's game.
"It's the next week that poses the problem," Pederson said. "I don't think it affects the guys either way. I don't think they think about it any differently than they would a Sunday game or a Saturday game. You have to kind of earn that, to play on Monday night.
"I feel like guys have earned that for this game. Hopefully we have more to come."
- Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell and running back Travis Etienne Jr. practiced limited Thursday, with Campbell having missed four of the last five games with a hamstring injury and Etienne sustaining a rib injury this past Sunday in a victory over the Houston Texans. Campbell has missed the last two games with the injury after reaggravating it in a Week 10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. "Both are doing well," Pederson said. "It's day-to-day, each one, but both are doing good." Also Thursday: Tight end Luke Farrell practiced limited with a toe injury.
- Left tackle Cam Robinson could return this season, Pederson said Thursday. Robinson, who sustained a knee injury in a victory over the Houston Texans this past Sunday, was placed on injured reserve on Monday. "We'll see how he does these next couple weeks, but we're optimistic that he could [return]," Pederson said of Robinson.