JACKSONVILLE – We're past the point of must-win games.
Whether that moment passed in London a few weeks back or in last week's ugly loss in Indianapolis last Sunday, this much is clear:
The time for talking about the postseason, and about what the Jaguars must – or can do – to get there is over for now. It's up to the Jaguars to somehow win enough in the coming weeks to bring us back to that conversation.
That process begins Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.
The game is on many fronts a difficult task. The Titans remain in contention. They're playing at home, in a venue where the Jaguars have had little success recently. They like to run and do it well, something that is a major concern for the Jaguars considering their recent struggles against the run.
Jaguars players talked throughout the week of how they are focused not on the big picture of a playoff push but on simply winning the game at hand.
That's what they should discuss. What fans and observers won't be discussing nearly as much are playoff scenarios. At least not until the Jaguars win.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars must do for that to happen Sunday:
1.Stop Derrick Henry – or at least slow him down. Stopping the Titans' big, physical running back is critical. The Titans want to run Henry early and often and want him to wear down the Jaguars' defense as he has done in the past. This is so important Sunday it could be repeated from Nos. 1-10. We won't do that. We'll try not to do that, anyway.
2.Stop Henry – or at least slow him down. The numbers are scary. While the Jaguars stifled Henry in the teams' Week 3 meeting in Jacksonville, he rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns in a Titans victory over the Jaguars in Nashville last December. His 99-yard, tackle-breaking, prime-time touchdown in that game will live forever in the minds of witnesses – and in the minds of Jaguars players who couldn't tackle him on that play. Such a moment must not be repeated.
3.Stop Henry – or at least slow him down. Final thought on this front: Henry or no Henry, the Jaguars just must figure out a way to stop the run. They have allowed 200 or more yards rushing three times this season, including the last two games. They have averaged allowing 240 yards a game rushing the last two games. That's inexcusable and defies logic.
4.Tackle, for goodness' sake. OK, this has a lot to do with Nos. 1-3, but the Jaguars have no chance to win tackling as they did against the Colts last week. They must get off blocks better, too. Both of those issues have been a major emphasis this week.
5.Run more than nine times. That was the number of carries for the Jaguars last week, with running back Leonard Fournette running eight times. There were various reasons it played out that way, most significantly the Indianapolis Colts taking a double-digit lead early in the second half. But no way do the Jaguars win running less than 10 times.
6.Play better at quarterback. It's reasonable to expect this. Quarterback Nick Foles wasn't bad in his second start with the Jaguars last Sunday, and his rust was understandable considering an eight-week absence because of a Week 1 broken clavicle. But the Jaguars won't win games with Foles throwing short of receivers and into double coverage as often as he did Sunday.
7.Keeping going for big plays with DJ Chark Jr. The Jaguars' second-year wide receiver has a knack for the spectacular. The Jaguars must keep using it.
8.Ignory history. While they're at it, the Jaguars must ignore the whole feel of Nissan Stadium. Ignore the cool bands before the game. Ignore the fact that they haven't won there in what seems like forever. Ignore that it's seemingly always dark and cold, even in the afternoon. They must ignore it all, because they need to win. Somehow. Someway.
9.Ignore the noise. And logic. Just about no one believes the Jaguars will win in Tennessee after losing back-to-back games to the Houston Texans and Colts. The noise says the Jaguars' season is over. Some logic does, too. That's fine, but it's up to the Jaguars to prove those things wrong.
10a.Stop the Titans in the red zone and score in the red zone. The Jaguars' offense has struggled inside the 20 this season, the Titans have scored on their last 10 possessions in that situation. Reversing one trend – or both – is critical Sunday.
10b.Stop Henry – or at least slow him down. Did we mention this?