JACKSONVILLE – A must-win game? No.
The Jaguars aren't there yet. Whether or not they beat the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, their hopes for the season will remain in relatively good shape provided they play well and win for a few weeks afterward.
But important? Yes.
Yes, yes, yes … Sunday's game is important – and not just because it's to remain in first place in the AFC South.
It's important because for a second time in three weeks the Jaguars need to play well to show themselves they are capable of doing so. They need to show they're the team that beat Miami in an emotional Week 2 game at EverBank Field and not the team that was far too uncompetitive against the New England Patriots in the second half of a 51-17 loss this past Sunday.
There are more reasons the game's important, but that's the biggest one. By a long shot. For now, we'll leave it at that.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to win Sunday:
1)Prove themselves … again. The Jaguars proved a point in Week 2 against Miami – namely, that they were better than they played against Carolina in Week 1. This team darned sure believes it's better than the final result against New England. Now, it must show it.
2)Pressure Andrew Luck. The Jaguars did it last year in Indy. It resulted in a tight game at halftime, and a game the Jaguars could have won had their offense been effective. Whatever else the Jaguars must do Sunday, they gotta do this. The fact that Luck has a right shoulder injury? Well, that just makes this all the more critical.
3)Stop Frank Gore.To do No. 1, you must first do No. 2. The unrestricted free agent started getting going last week against the Titans. That can't happen Sunday.
4)Move on.This team has responded well to adversity in the past under Head Coach Gus Bradley. They did it just two weeks ago, beating Miami after a Week 1 loss to Carolina. A 34-point loss when your defense allows nine consecutive scores? Whatever your definition of adversity, that qualifies. The Jaguars must move past it. They must be resilient. This game is for first place in the AFC South. That's too important to be worried about the past.
Images from Thursdays Practice held at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields.
5)Be "Good Blake."OK, maybe it's not fair to say there has been a Good Blake Bortles and a Bad Blake Bortles this season. It's probably more accurate to say there has been a Young Blake Bortles and a Growing Blake Bortles. We saw a glimpse of Growing Blake in Week 2 against Miami. The Jaguars need to see that guy again. He's easy to like.
6)Stay healthy. This entry could be "get healthy," because while the Jaguars appear likely to get some key guys back Sunday, they're still by any measure a banged-up team. But whoever starts Sunday, it's key to keep players on the field. It's hard enough playing well with backups; it's even harder to be effective and stick to your game plan with the backups' backups.
7)Be special consistently.This is about the Jaguars' receivers. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee (if he plays) – all have shown flashes of big-time potential this season. For this team to win big games – and Sunday is a big game – the group needs to start doing it consistently. It needs to stop being a surprise when the Jaguars score more than a touchdown in a half.
8)Get Yeldon going.This team wants to be a running team. At times this season, it has looked close to being a running team. A lot of the reason it hasn't been a running team has been game circumstances; it was tough to run down by 20 or more points against New England. You get the idea the offensive line/Yeldon are due for a big game. Make that this week.
9)Take a few chances defensively.This isn't as much about blitzing as it is playing tighter coverage. Soft zone and cushion made at least some sense against Tom Brady and the Patriots, but at some point the secondary needs to play tight and take some calculated gambles. It's hard to get interceptions otherwise.
10)Cover the tight ends.The Colts tight ends haven't had huge seasons. Coby Fleener hasn't been targeted much and Dwayne Allen has missed time with an ankle injury. But historically speaking, the Colts' tight ends have had a lot of success against the Jaguars. The Jaguars must be aware of that – and, of course, of T.Y. Hilton as well.