JACKSONVILLE – This game likely won't be a blowout.
In fact, the odds are against it.
That won't sit well with some, because some see the Jaguars' last game against Sunday's opponent – the Indianapolis Colts – and see a 27-0, 10-sack, mid-October victory in Indianapolis. Some assume that what happened there and then automatically will translate to the here and now.
That's not the way the NFL works. Not usually.
Usually in the NFL teams adjust and usually you don't blow out a team in your division twice – and just because the Jaguars sacked Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett 10 times in October doesn't mean they automatically will do so again at EverBank Field Sunday.
The guess here is that the Jaguars will win and improve to 8-4. That's the guess because their defense matches up well against the Colts' offense, and because the Colts have been finding a way to lose close games in recent weeks. That's also the guess because the Jaguars are playing at home, fighting for a playoff spot, and they have much for which to play.
But the Jaguars' offense is struggling for points, and the Colts' defense is playing well enough to make those struggles continue.
The Jaguars likely will play well enough to win, but there will probably be some breath-holding at the 'Bank. That's OK because it's December – and if you're contending, you take December victories however you get them.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars need to do get one Sunday:
1.Run.The reality is the Jaguars haven't been a great running team lately, their No. 1 league ranking in that area notwithstanding. Running back Leonard Fournette has been held under four yards a carry in six of nine games this season, and he has been right at 2.0 yards per carry twice in the last three weeks. The Jaguars must get back to running well enough to create manageable down and distances. If they don't, they'll have trouble no matter the opponent.
2.Make plays down field.This has become a staple of "10 Things," and that's not likely to change. With teams stacking the box against the Jaguars' running game, there are going to plays available downfield. Three things must happen for those plays to get made. The offensive line must give quarterback Blake Bortles time to make throws downfield. Bortles must throw accurately downfield. Receivers must make the catch. The second has been happening quite a bit. The other two things must start happening once or twice a half – at least.
Take a look at all of the Jaguars players participating in this Year's My Cause My Cleats.
3.Catch the ball.Drops and missed opportunities happen in the passing game. They just can't happen as often as they have happened for the Jaguars lately.
4.Pressure Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett.The Colts have allowed Brissett to be sacked 28 times in the last five games. Ten of those sacks came against the Jaguars October 22; eight came last week against Tennessee. The Jaguars' defensive line against the Colts' offensive line is a matchup edge for Jacksonville. The Jaguars must take advantage.
5.Run, Blake run.The Jaguars' offense doesn't appear likely to suddenly become an efficient, productive machine. That means it's going to have to grind and scrape for points. Bortles likely will have to play the rest of the season much as he did against Arizona last week – avoiding pressure, running at times and willing the Jaguars' offense to points. That may not mean running six times for 62 yards as he did in Glendale. Then again, it might.
6.Turn takeaways into points.The Jaguars' six defensive touchdowns this season are enough to make scoring defensively seem routine. That's not fair because defensive touchdowns are never routine. Fair or not, this team needs the defense to create points – or at least scoring opportunities – to win consistently.
7.Stop Jack Doyle.The Colts' tight end has 59 receptions for 544 yards this season; his receptions total is second among NFL tight ends. Cardinals tight ends caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars' defense last week. Jaguars cornerbacks have yet to allow a receiving touchdown this season, so teams are going to keep trying the middle of the field with the tight ends. Be ready.
8.Get an early lead.The Colts have kept games close this season, holding a halftime lead in six of their eight losses. Eventually, they're going to hold one of those leads. Take that out of the equation. Get ahead and stay there.
9.Stay poised, don't panic.As mentioned above, this game might be tight. That can be frustrating when you've beaten a team by a wide margin early in the season. Forget that. Keep playing defense. Keep pressuring Brissett. Opportunities to win and close the game will come. Be ready when they do.
10.Feed off the crowd.This is the first of three consecutive home games. There's more buzz around this team than there has been in years. The crowd will be ready. Take advantage of it.