JACKSONVILLE – In the best of circumstances, the task is tough. Really tough.
These are not the best of circumstances.
The Jaguars (1-7) on Sunday will play the Green Bay Packers (6-2) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers historically are very good at home. And in the last season and a half, the Packers and Hall-of-Fame-bound quarterback Aaron Rodgers have been good anywhere. They're 20-6 since the start of 2019.
That's one thing that makes Sunday tough for the visitors.
Other things that make it tough are a rookie quarterback making his second NFL start and a defense that has allowed at least 20 points in every game this season – and at least 27 points in every game of what is now a seven-game losing streak.
Yes, the Jaguars' task Sunday is difficult. The Packers unsurprisingly are favored, making Sunday the first of many such tasks facing the Jaguars in the coming weeks. They face the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers next week. Games against the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears and other contenders follow.
But perhaps no remaining game on the Jaguars' 2020 schedule is as challenging as the Packers. Rodgers is historically good in Lambeau. He's having a big season, and Rodgers and the Packers rarely slip against teams they are favored to handle.
So, can the Jaguars win? Of course. It's the NFL. Any team can win on any Sunday.
What must they to do to do that? Here are 10 things:
1.Run … The best hope for the Jaguars against an offense as good and consistent as the Packers? Shorten the game. That means getting rookie running back James Robinson running effectively against a Packers defense that has struggled at times this season against the run.
2.Let Luton throw. Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton threw for 304 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut last week against the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field last week. Playing at Lambeau Field – even without fans – is a different task. So is playing a Packers' defense that's better than the Texans' defense. Yes, it's important to shorten the game – and to run Robinson. But the only way for Robinson to run effectively is if Luton can throw effectively to get the Packers' defense from stacking the line of scrimmage. Luton showed last week he can throw. The Jaguars must let him.
3.Throw one or fewer interceptions. Luton threw one interception in his debut, narrowly avoiding two or three others. The Packers run a more varied, complex scheme than the Texans. That increases the chances Luton could be confused. He must keep that confusion from turning into an avalanche of turnovers.
4.Pressure Rodgers … He's as good as any player in the NFL. He remains at the peak of his powers and is in full command of the offense in his second season under Head Coach Matt LaFleur. The only way to beat a quarterback this good? Pressure him.
5…. but more importantly, sack Rodgers. Pressuring Rodgers is one thing; sacking him is another. He's one of the best in NFL history at succeeding on "off-schedule plays." If you pressure Rodgers, you must sack him – or at least contain him in the pocket. Both are among the NFL's toughest tasks.
6.Hold Adams under 100. Packers wide receiver Davante Adams has emerged in recent seasons as one of the NFL's best at his position. He has more than 150 yards receiving in three games this season and has been held under 65 in both Packers' losses.
7.Ignore the tundra. The famed "Frozen Tundra" of Lambeau Field won't be frozen Sunday, but there's history in Green Bay no matter the weather. The Jaguars can't worry about history. Playing Rodgers and this Packers team is challenge enough.
8.Get a score off a turnover. This hasn't happened for the Jaguars this season. It's a difficult ask against Rodgers, who rarely commits turnovers at home. But in a matchup that looks as one-sided as this on paper, defensive – or special teams – points can be an equalizer.
9.Score early. The Jaguars scored their first opening-possession touchdown of the season last week against Houston. Not coincidentally, they stayed in the game longer – and had a better chance to win at the end – than any game since Week 2. They can't afford an early deficit Sunday. They must score early; it's too difficult to come from behind against a quarterback playing at as a high a level as Rodgers.
10.Play their best game of the season. It's hard to see the Jaguars winning – or coming close – if they don't.