Let' s start with this: This is not a statement game.
It's too early to think about the Jaguars bursting onto the national scene anyway, a mere week into the season. Even with a season-opening victory over Tennessee, much about this team – i.e., how good they really are, how far Luke McCown can take the team, how improved the defense really is – remains very much unknown.
But there's this, too:
The NFL is not a "statement" league. Style points count for nothing, and reputation is meaningless. Such things matter in college, but not in professional football.
In the NFL, you win enough games and you get to the postseason.
What the national media thinks about that is meaningless.
But while the Jaguars don't need to prove anything to anyone else in the league or in the media – although Jaguars fans seem to be obsessed with doing so – Sunday's game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., without question is an important game.
The Jaguars are confident. They believe they're better than observers believe. They believe they're better than last year, and better than the year before. They believe they can contend for a postseason appearance.
But at some point to be such a team you have to start beating good teams, and you have to do it on the road. Sunday is a chance to do both.
A victory Sunday would make the Jaguars 2-0 for the first time since 2006, and would give them a reasonable chance for a very, very good start. It would also excite the fan base, and sure, it would do a bit to alter how people nationally are viewing them.
But a statement? No, the Jaguars don't need to worry about statements. They don't matter in the NFL, anyway. They need to worry about winning, and getting to 2-0. Do that, and keep doing it, and eventually statements won't even be a topic.
With that in mind, here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Jets:
1.Run effectively.This is always key for the Jaguars. It's even more so against a team that feeds off its ability to blitz and defend the pass.
2.Let Luke loose – even if only a little.The Jaguars don't want to turn this into a pass fest. They still have to do what they do best, but McCown showed last week he can make big-time throws in crucial situations. The Jaguars may have to let him do it a few more times Sunday.
3.Shut out the crowd.Easier said than done in MetLife Stadium. Love seeing Fireman Ed.
4.Stop the run.This is what the Jaguars want to do best. They can't win many games if they don't do it, and that's almost certainly true against the Jets.
5.Pressure Mark Sanchez.The Jets' quarterback will make mistakes if rushed.
6.Attack the middle of the defense.It's difficult to pass on the New York corners. Someone needs to work the middle of the field.
7.Forget the past.The Jaguars historically have been successful against the Jets in New York. More recently, they have struggled on the road. None of that matters Sunday.
8.Force turnovers.The Jaguars were solid against Tennessee last week defensively. They'll need to be more than that against the Jets. You win games on the road by making a game-turning play or two.
9.Contain LaDainian. LaDainian Tomlinson is aging, but he's still dangerous. The Jaguars contained Chris Johnson last week, and they'll need to do the same – on the ground and as a receiver – Sunday.
10. Ignore the hype.The Jets are in New York. They're brash. They're well-publicized. They love to talk. Their fans are rowdy. They're also beatable. Worry not about the extracurriculars and focus on the . . . well, on the curriculars – or something like that. This team trailed by 14 points late in the fourth quarter last week and hasn't been a world-beater in the regular season the last two seasons. Just play.