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Ten things: Jaguars-Saints


JACKSONVILLE – Goodness knows, this one won't be easy.

You know those NFL games where a matchup is so obvious that it's the storyline all week – and it's all the media seems to talk about? Well, guess what? Jaguars-Saints has that matchup.

And it's far from a favorable one for the Jaguars.

It involves the Jaguars' pass rush. That's true if Saints quarterback Drew Brees plays through the plantar fascia tear in his right foot Sunday, but it's not much less true if Matt Flynn or Garrett Grayson is playing quarterback for New Orleans.

Whoever's playing quarterback for the Saints, the Jaguars' pass rush must find a way to pressure him.

Pressuring has been a tough task for the Jaguars' defense this season. It was tough before last Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and it was sure tough during that game as the Jaguars failed again and again to get Matt Ryan and Julio Jones off the field on third-and-long situations.

The Jaguars' struggles against good quarterbacks have been well-documented this season, and pass rush is a reason.

That makes this a scary matchup for the Jaguars regardless of who plays quarterback for New Orleans, but it makes it particularly daunting if Brees plays.

Still, the Jaguars enter it needing to win to have a chance to keep their slim, slim AFC South title hopes alive. Can they win? Yes.

Here are 10 things they need to do to make that happen:

1)Pressure Drew Brees – if he plays.We'll avoid the temptation to copy and paste this nine more times – for a while, anyway.

2)Start fast. This one's a tough fix. The Jaguars haven't scored a touchdown in the first half the last two weeks and their 35 first-quarter points this season are less than of half their second-lowest quarter (78 in the third). Still, the Jaguars must start fast – or at least not slow. The Superdome is a dangerous place to fall behind.

3)Limit the Saints early.The Saints, by contrast, have a tendency to start fast. They score more points in the first quarter (97) than in any other quarter. If the Jaguars have the lead after a quarter, they're in good shape. So, slowing the Saints down early is key. To do that, they must …

4)Pressure Drew Brees.He's dangerous if you blitz him, and dangerous if you don't. He's dangerous with a foot injury or without. He's most dangerous if unpressured. So, pressure him. Somehow, some way …

5)Stay aggressive.The Jaguars are going to have to score Sunday – probably a lot. The good news is they are capable of doing that, having scored 39 points three weeks ago against Tennessee and 51 against the Colts two weeks ago. You may not need to hit 40 Sunday, but aggressiveness could be needed. You're probably not going to win against New Orleans kicking field goals – at least not very many.

6)Run.The Jaguars struggled to run last week, with Denard Robinson rushing 14 times for 28 yards. That's not enough balance, and it put the Jaguars in far too many third-and-unmanageable situations. The Saints rank last in the NFL in rushing defense, but can the Jaguars take advantage?

7)Keep believing.The playoff hopes are slim, and if Houston beats Tennessee at 1 p.m., the Jaguars could officially be eliminated from the postseason before or very soon after the 4:05 p.m. kickoff in New Orleans. So what? That can't be the Jaguars' goal Sunday anyway, because it's out of their control. This team always has played hard for Gus Bradley whatever the circumstance. It will need to do that again Sunday.

8)Make the opportunities count.Jaguars quarterback* *Blake Bortles barely missed tight end Julius Thomas for an easy touchdown last week. He also missed wide receiver Allen Hurns late in the game on a pass that wasn't as easy, but was certainly hittable. The Saints are going to score points. When you have an opportunity to score, take advantage.

9)Convert third downs.The Jaguars haven't converted a third down in the first half in either of their last two games. They haven't scored an offensive touchdown in either of their last two games either. That's no way to start fast.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

10)Pressure Drew Brees.

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