1. Stop Peyton Manning.This is Priority One. It's also the hardest thing to do in the NFL right now. In his second season with the Broncos, Manning is playing historically well, which is significant for a player who has been the NFL Most Valuable Player four times. He is throwing to a receiver corps that includes a pair of Pro Bowl players, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, and the Broncos' offense through five weeks is the most productive in NFL history. Manning also has a significant edge in experience in this game, with 239 career starts. The Jaguars' secondary – which will start two rookies at safety and two cornerbacks, Alan Ball and Will Blackmon, with comparatively little starting experience – has a combined 39 NFL starts. The group will face the toughest test of their young careers.
2. Ignore the talk.At 0-5, few nationally give the Jaguars a chance Sunday, and with the Broncos 5-0 and setting NFL records offensively, the perceived differences in the teams has gained national attention. Jaguars players took the right approach this week: Point spreads and favorites mean nothing when it comes time to play the game. Take this attitude to the field.
3. Stop Manning.This is worth mentioning again. He has 20 touchdowns and one interception, and is on pace for 64 passing touchdowns this season. That would be a record.
4. Beware the run.While Manning is the focal point of much of the attention heaped on the Broncos, a key for their offense is the ability to run. Manning will call draws and runs at the line of scrimmage based on what he sees from the defense, and if the defense doesn't stop it, he'll continue to call runs. The counter of that is that he will throw based on how you stop the run, but for starters, you do have to stop the run.
5. Pressure Manning.This is critical, because as well as he is playing, any quarterback can be forced into mistakes under pressure. That hasn't happened often this season, but it can happen. The Jaguars' pass rush has been better at times this season than many expected, and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks has provided the most consistent pressure. Marks must get pressure from the interior, and the Jaguars must find a way to get consistent rush on Manning from the outside.
6. Run Jones-Drew.The Jaguars struggled to get Maurice Jones-Drew running effectively in the first four games of the season. The line improved its run blocking against St. Louis Sunday, and Jones-Drew had his most effective game of the season. It wasn't just the line. He also ran with more force, suddenness and burst than he had in the first four games. That will be a key. The Jaguars want to get first downs and touchdowns to keep Manning off field. Running effectively will help that cause.
7. Force turnovers. The Jaguars have had chances at turnovers this season, and too often, they have just missed a big, momentum-turning play. Last week, Marks' sack-fumble in the first quarter had the ball out and on the ground deep in Rams territory. A recovery there and the Jaguars would have had possession at the Rams 5-yard line, with a real chance to take a 14-0 or 10-0 lead. Instead the Rams punted, and Blaine Gabbert threw an interception returned for a Rams touchdown and the game was tied, 7-7.
8. Make a play on special teams.Actually, you may need to make two or three. This is possible, and the results in recent weeks have shown there's a chance. Not only did rookie wide receiver Ace Sanders have a punt return for a touchdown that was called back on Sunday in St. Louis, the Jaguars have blocked three punts this season. A big play on special teams can change momentum and help negate the Broncos' offensive production. You have to figure Denver will score points. Getting points on special teams is a way to counter that.
9. Throw to Justin Blackmon.Blackmon caught a 67-yard touchdown pass early and had 90 yards receiving at the end of the first quarter Sunday. He didn't catch another pass until Chad Henne threw to him for a 39-yard gain on Henne's first play of the game late in the third quarter. He's capable of breaking tackles and making the difficult catch. He needs to have that chance.
10. Stop Peyton Manning.Not to belabor the point, but . . .