Time once again to dust off a recent topic.
And though it may seem lazy to repeat a theme, we're not beyond laziness in these parts. Besides, considering the events of the week, it's not ridiculous to issue a reminder that the Jaguars need to do something important and immediate before we speak of late-season drama and post-season aspirations.
They still need to win. And it obviously needs to start Sunday in Cleveland.
The whole AFC South title/post-season talk resurfaced this week when it was learned the Houston Texans likely had lost another key player for the season. Though he has not been placed on injured reserve, quarterback Matt Schaub isn't expected to play again this season because of a Lisfranc injury to his foot.
Immediately, the speculation started . . .
What if the Texans stumble mightily, as could be the case with their starting quarterback out? They have stumbled before, and in fact, the franchise has been defined in recent years by late-season fades.
Considering that, what if the Jaguars go on a run?
What if, what if . . ?
We'll interrupt the reverie with reality. As was the case three weeks back, when we cautioned before a road game at Houston against talking of the post-season until the Jaguars earned it with successive victories, we must caution again.
Don't focus there. Not yet.
Could it happen? Mathematically yes, and certainly the injury to Schaub doesn't help the Texans' long-term prospects. But the reality remains that the Jaguars are 3-6 and have yet to win two consecutive games this season. They trail the Texans by three and a half games.
That's three and a half with seven remaining – six for the Texans – so even if the Jaguars win, say, six of their last seven, Houston would need to lose four of their final six to tie.
Could it happen? Mathematically yes, and the Jaguars do play the Texans at home on November 27. A victory Sunday over the Browns and a victory over a Schaub-less Texans team would make things interesting entering December. Then, you can talk. Then, you can dream.
And that would be great.
Still, the reality is the Jaguars have lost nine of 12 games and haven't won consecutive games since a five-victories-in-six-games-stretch vaulted them into first place in the AFC South last December. That's why when it comes to playoff talk, at the risk of being repetitive and lazy, I say first things first.
Get a victory. Then another and another. Show consistency. Show some offensive production. Show the knack for winning. The last time the Jaguars were in this spot was before the road game in Houston. They needed a victory to maybe inch back into the playoff chase.
Three weeks later, they have a chance to get within an admittedly distant whiff of contention again. Win Sunday and win again – that's what the Jaguars must do first before anything else matters. Do that, and maybe the whiff isn't so distant.
Do that, and when you start talking playoffs we'll be right there talking, too.
For now, here are 10 things the Jaguars have do to beat the Browns:
1)Get ahead early.This is pretty much a weekly entry. When you're struggling to score more than 12 points a game, any deficit is large.
2)Make the fans turn on the Browns.How do you do this? See No. 1. Browns fans are mad. They expected to be better this season. They're mad enough they're making fun of their own team. They also don't think the Jaguars are very good. Get ahead of them, and the Browns will hear boos.
3)Stop the run.This is doable, particularly because Payton Hillis won't play – and because the Jaguars are a good defense. There's no reason to think the Jaguars won't stop the run. You've still got to do it. If they run effectively, they'll gain something they haven't had much lately – confidence.
4)Score 21 points.No, it hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it can't. The Browns haven't scored more than 12 points since October 16 and their only game over 20 points was against the Colts.
5)Turn offensive chances into touchdowns.The Jaguars controlled the momentum against Indianapolis early Sunday, and a turnover gave them a chance to get an early lead. Instead, Blaine Gabbert threw a red-zone interception. As a result, the game was tied 3-3 in the second half. That didn't hurt because Indianapolis is really struggling offensively. The Browns' offense is struggling, too, but not enough to let too many opportunities pass.
6)Make some plays.Time and again last weekend, you saw receivers around the NFL make plays for quarterbacks – out-jumping a defender, reaching up to make a difficult catch. That hasn't happened enough for the Jaguars this season. Make a play above the Xs and Os.
7)Catch the ball.Yes, this is an off shoot of No. 6, but while the Jaguars receivers must make big plays, they also need to make basic receptions. The Jaguars' offense is struggling and every pass play seems like a chore. Some offenses are advanced, experienced and efficient enough to overcome a dropped pass or two. The Jaguars aren't there yet.
8)Run Maurice Jones-Drew.Run him, and perhaps most importantly, make sure he's in the game in the red zone. Scoring opportunities are rare. He needs to be in the game when those opportunities arise.
9)Score a defensive touchdown.This game almost certainly will be close. Every field goal will feel like a touchdown. The Browns will make mistakes, and lately, the Jaguars' defense has done a better job turning errors into turnovers. Turning one into a touchdown would be a momentum-changing event in a game such as Sunday's.
10)Play your game.The reality? The Jaguars are the better team. The defenses are pretty equal, though the Jaguars stop the run better. And offensively? Both teams are struggling, but the Jaguars have Maurice Jones-Drew. Do what you do and do it well and that should be enough.