LONDON – This week in 10 things … "basic" takes on an international flair.
We've been in Basic Mode each week as we've examined 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat their opponent that week, and there's no reason to change that in advance of Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium in London.
The Jaguars did the basics well in Week 1 and beat the Houston Texans – handily.
They struggled with the basics in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans and got … handled.
The Ravens have handled the basics in their first two games, using a balanced, run-oriented offense and an opportunistic defense to move to 2-0.
Here's how the Ravens shake out entering Week 3:
They believe they're good. They believe they're playing defense in the way their really good teams have played in the past. They believe they're returning to their expected form of a perennial playoff team after missing the postseason three times in the last four seasons.
The Jaguars believe they're good, too – that despite not playing that way against Tennessee. They need a victory in London Sunday to regain confidence, and they need it against a team that has gained confidence each of the past two weeks.
Don't look for the Jaguars to get complicated Sunday. They'll stay basic. They still want to run. And play defense. And play smart. And win low-scoring games. Week 2's struggles didn't change that.
The good news for the Jaguars: if they win Sunday they're 2-1 and the bad vibe of Tennessee goes way. If they lose? Ugh …
Here are 10 things they must do Sunday to ensure the former happens as opposed to the latter:
1.Run.This won't change. There are a bunch of things the Jaguars must to do win this season. Just running won't be enough. But they must do it.
2.Protect the ball.Yes, the Jaguars must do this every week. It's no coincidence that they won easily in Week 1 committing no turnovers and lost big in Week 2 committing three. But the Ravens in particular thrive off takeaways. They have forced five in each of their first two games, and they have eight interceptions in two games. That is their formula. The Jaguars' task this week: make them prove they can win with another formula.
3.Let last week go.The Tennessee loss was dispiriting. And disappointing. And disheartening. It's over. You're still in first place. Win Sunday and Tennessee is forgotten.
4.Make plays downfield.This was sorely lacking against Tennessee in Week 2. As long as it is sorely lacking, teams will continue to stack the box and make No. 1 ("run") extremely difficult. This won't likely be a dynamic, pass-oriented offense this season. That's not how the Jaguars want to play. But it's difficult to win without even the threat of plays downfield.
5.Feed Fournette.The first key here is keeping the game close long enough to make feeding running back Leonard Fournette a viable plan. But if the Jaguars keep it close, they must keep feeding Fournette. He's their best offensive player. He must be fed.
6.Stop the run.This is always a key, but it's particularly important against Baltimore this week. The Ravens ran effectively in Week 1. They were more balanced in Week 2, but they were still effective running – and they believe they can be a running team. Make them uncomfortable. Make them pass when you know they must pass. That leads to …
7.Disrupt Joe.The Jaguars were dominant in Week 1 because of 10 sacks and four takeaways defensively. They're not going to turn in a weekly 10-4, but they need more pressure on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco than they got against Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota last week. That should be doable against a Baltimore offensive line wrecked by injuries. But you must get Baltimore into passing situations to do it.
8.Create chaos.A lot has been made of the Ravens' 10 takeaways in the first two games. But the Jaguars have five takeaways this season, including two interceptions. That's necessary because this team needs defensive scores – or at least scores set up by the defense – to win. If the Jaguars win takeaway/giveaway Sunday, the guess here is they win.
9.Stay in manageable situations.The Jaguars had five possessions in the second and third quarter against Tennessee on which penalties created first or second downs with 19 or more yards to go. They won't win games where that happens this season. Few teams win in that situation. This team definitely can't.
10.Feed off Wembley.This would have been a silly thought in 2013, the first time the Jaguars played in London. But the Wembley crowd has taken on decidedly pro-Jaguars feel with each meeting. Keep that momentum going. Win in Wembley, and let the fans help.