JACKSONVILLE – They have some momentum, and they want more.
The Jaguars, a week after one of their most dramatic – and significant – victories in recent memory, also want to maintain their AFC South and postseason hopes when they play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., Sunday at 1 p.m.
The game is an intriguing one.
It features two rapidly-improving teams with young, promising rosters. They are both 4-7, with hopes of a late-season run to push for a postseason appearance.
It also features two productive offenses, with the Lions ranked No. 8 overall in yards and the Jaguars ranked No. 9 – as well as two quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft, Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars (2021) and Jared Goff of the Lions (2016).
It features, too, the two players selected Nos. 1 and 2 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft – outside linebacker Travon Walker of the Jaguars (No. 1) and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson of the Lions (No. 2). They're two players who inevitably will be compared to one another in the short- and long-term.
For the Jaguars, it's a chance to build on the momentum of two victories in the last three games, and a chance to win on the road for a second time this season after not doing so either of the past two seasons. Perhaps most importantly, it's a chance to continue moving in the right direction.
Here are 10 things they must do to make that happen:
- Keep being T-Law … Lawrence not only has turned in three consecutive efficient performances, but he also turned in the best performance of his NFL career to date in a 28-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. He's starting to look the part of a build-your-team-around-him quarterback. As Lawrence goes right now, so goes this offense.
- … but don't force it. Lawrence was white hot late Sunday. But as important as his clutch passing late in that game is that he hasn't thrown an interception in the last three games. This leads to No. 3 …
- Protect the ball in the red zone … This wasn't a problem Sunday, but turnovers near the opponents' end zone have cost the Jaguars enough games that it's always a topic. The Jaguars' improvement in the last month starts here.
- … and score touchdowns there, too. The Jaguars converted 15 of 30 red-zone possessions into touchdowns in Weeks 1-8. They have converted seven of 11 in three games since. In a one-possession league, such improvement changes games.
- Run. The Jaguars beat the Ravens despite rushing for 38 yards. It was thrilling to watch them win through the air. Thrilling or not, it's hard to win that way regularly. Running back Travis Etienne Jr. is expected to play Sunday after leaving the Ravens game with a foot injury.
- Win up front defensively. The Lions have one of the NFL's best offensive lines. The Jaguars' defensive front prides itself on stopping the run, which the unit has done well against teams without big-time running quarterbacks. The Lions are a conventional running team, and this will be the Jaguars' toughest test yet this season against that sort of offense.
- Limit St. Brown. Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is fast becoming a No. 1 receiver. The Jaguars have the option of moving cornerback Tyson Campbell to his side. Either way, this is a tough matchup for a secondary that overall has struggled in coverage at times this season.
- Score, score and score some more. The Lions have scored 24 or more points eight times this season. The Jaguars have allowed 20 or more points in eight games. Two of the Jaguars' four highest-scoring games have come in the last three weeks – victories over the Las Vegas Raiders (27 points) and the Ravens (28). They may need to be in that range Sunday against the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense.
- Pressure Goff. Goff is good, but he's not mobile. In the Lions' two worst losses of the season – back-to-back losses at New England (29-0) and Dallas (24-6) – he was sacked seven times and threw three interceptions. The key to disrupting most offenses is disrupting the quarterback. That holds true here.
- Stay focused. The victory over the Ravens was this team's most impressive moment in more than four years. It was a big moment, and memorable. Such moments become meaningful when followed by more such moments.