JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton offer quick thoughts as the Jaguars (5-8) prepare to play the Dallas Cowboys (10-3) in a 2022 Week 15 game at TIAA Bank Field Sunday
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer
- His team now. If any doubt remained about the Jaguars being quarterback Trevor Lawrence's team, it disappeared Sunday – and not just because of the best performance of his career to date in a victory over the Tennessee Titans. How much this is now the second-year veteran's team showed late in the game. First, he waved goodbye to departing fans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville with the Jaguars having clinched victory with a late fourth-down stop – a move that undoubtedly endeared him to Jaguars fans who as a rule hate the Titans. Lawrence shortly thereafter stepped to Titans defensive lineman Kevin Strong after multiple defensive players hit center, Luke Fortner, on a last-play snap as the Jaguars were running out the clock. Lawrence then pointed to the scoreboard, which showed a Jaguars 36-22 victory – their first in the series in nine years. Lawrence said the actions were about "having that edge, that intensity, being passionate about what we're doing. We're all getting more and more of that as the season goes. We need a lot of juice. I know everybody's excited. We're in a spot in our season where I think we're getting better every week." The moves showed moxie, fight and confidence – and if those traits define Lawrence and the Jaguars moving forward, things could be fun around here for a while.
- This is real – and earned. The Jaguars are in the postseason conversation for the first time in a long time, and don't get distracted by their 5-8 record: This team deserves to be here. The Jaguars have won three of the last five games and their most recent two victories have come against teams currently leading their divisions – 28-27 over the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens and this past Sunday over the AFC South-leading Titans. The Jaguars can win the South if they tie the Titans (7-6) for first place and beat them in the regular-season finale in Jacksonville. The Jaguars also have games remaining against the Cowboys (10-3), at the New York Jets (7-6) and Houston Texans (1-11-1) while the Titans visit the Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) and play host to the Texans and Cowboys. The Jaguars need help and must play more consistently in the coming weeks than they have all season. The odds are still long, but they have played their way into this situation by beating contenders in recent weeks. They don't need to apologize for talking playoffs this week. They earned being in the conversation.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…
- Third-down troubles. You know all about the Jaguars struggles' getting off the field in Detroit, but it goes beyond the Lions game – and it must get corrected if the Jaguars are going to make a run toward the postseason. Winning on third down is generally considered to be getting the opponent off the field around 40 percent of the time, with the elite defenses checking in south of 35 percent. Over the last month, the Jaguars' defense has allowed opponents to convert 28 of 46 third-down attempts – nearly 61 percent. Not since a Week 9 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders have the Jaguars held their opponents to less than 40 percent on third down. So, the Jaguars have been good at times on third down this season – but not for the last month. With one important month remaining, they must figure out what they did that worked, what they're not doing that's working for their opponent and what they can do to get a powerful Dallas Cowboys offense off the field on Sunday.
- Time for Trevor. The Jaguars' offensive line has done an admirable job of protecting Lawrence this season. The 23 sacks they have given up are the fifth fewest in the league through 13 games and they lead the NFL with six games in which the quarterback hasn't been sacked at all. That level of difficulty ramps up this week with Dallas, which leads the NFL with 48 sacks. Their opponent the following Thursday – the New York Jets – are currently fourth in the NFL with 39. Dallas features linebacker Micah Parsons, who has 12 sacks this season, and they have three other players with at least five sacks. Lawrence is the NFL's highest-rated passer since Week 9, completing 72 percent of his passes – and he has 10 touchdowns and no turnovers since a Week 9 loss to the Broncos. If the Jaguars are to keep winning, they must keep Trevor on his feet and give him a chance to keep doing what he has been doing. The next two games will show the true quality of the Jaguars' offensive line.
Swipe through photos of the Jaguars Wednesday practice ahead of the Week 15 game against the Dallas Cowboys.