The time has come to forget the standings.
You've done it. Admit it. And if you haven't, someone you know has, because it seems every day in the inbox, there are more than a few emails breaking down the AFC South, and how the Jaguars – despite a disappointing 1-5 record – can get back in this thing.
The Texans aren't elite, the theory goes, and the Titans don't scare anyone, either. And the Colts? Well, the Colts have shown nothing to make you believe they're a threat.
Because of all of that, there is hope. And that's fine. As Andy told Red, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things – and no good thing ever dies."
You can make the argument that the Jaguars' hopes are dying, or you can make an argument that because of the struggles of the AFC South, those hopes are just fine. My argument is none of it matters right now, or even for the next few weeks. My argument is you have to forget the standings, and the talk, and anything else to do with the post-season. My argument is before you can spend any time on any such things you have to just win a game.
Win a game, then maybe another, and then you can talk about standings, and postseason races. As Maurice Jones-Drew said this week, the Jaguars believe they're close – and I believe that, too – but until you win a game or two or three, saying you're close just sounds like so much post-game and pre-game gibberish.
Talking about standings at this stage? That sounds pretty gibberishy, too.
At 1-5, you don't talk about standings, because at 1-5, you can't really talk about anything and have it sound good. At 1-5, the Jaguars just need to win.
Win, and you get some momentum. Win, maybe it's easier for people to believe they really are as close as it seems.
Until then, save the AFC South talk. Because until then, there's just not a lot to say.
That said, ten things the Jaguars must do to beat the Ravens:
1. Forget the past.You're 1-5. That's not good. Nothing you can do about it now except get to 2-5.
2. Get Marcedes Lewis involved.Just because we keep saying it doesn't make it not true. Maybe his style is slow to mesh with Gabbert's, but whatever it is, the Jaguars were depending on Lewis to be productive in the passing game. It needs to happen.
3. Stop Ray Rice.The Jaguars have been good against the run, with a couple of notable exceptions – i.e.., versus Darren Sproles and Rashard Mendenhall. Ray Rice can't be another exception.
4. Get production from the wide receivers.Jason Hill and Mike Thomas have combined for 41 receptions, 540 yards and three touchdowns. Jarett Dillard has five catches for 51 yards. Chastin West has a catch for 16 yards. Can Mike Sims-Walker add something, anything? Stay tuned.
5. Shut out the noise.We said it last week and the week before. You know what? With each loss, the noise gets louder and you still have to shut it out.
6. Don't give up on the run.**It's easy to do against the Ravens. Maurice Jones-Drew has run effectively this season whoever the opponent. Don't forget the pass, but stay the course here, too.
7. Feed off the crowd.At 1-5, you may not get an emotional crowd every week. On Monday night, you should. The fans are frustrated, but they want something the cheer about. Give it to them.
8. Keep it close early.The Jaguars have had a lot of maddening habits this season. One that has cropped up in recent weeks is falling behind early. That can't happen Monday. The longer you're in it, the longer the crowd believes.
9. Force turnovers – and create points defensively.The defense continues to play well, but it seems each week there is an opportunity for a game-changing play lost. You've got to take advantage of such opportunities. Those plays are what produce prime-time upsets.
10. Remember: the nation is watching.I'm not a big "respect" guy, but this team has been criticized and made fun of a lot this season. Show the nation something. This is your chance.