JACKSONVILLE – Meet the new week, same as the old week.
Or something like that.
The Jaguars on Sunday will play the New York Jets at TIAA Bank Field – and if it seems the Jaguars are in familiar territory as the game approaches, that's absolutely the case.
The Jaguars, as was the case last week, are playing a struggling team, and they are favored to win. There are legitimate reasons for them being favored – and if they play well, they indeed likely should win and move to 4-4 on the season.
But just as the Jaguars needed a late surge last week to beat a Cincinnati Bengals team that entered the game without a victory, the reality is Sunday's game against the Jets again is tricky. And it might be even trickier.
Yes, the Jets looked bad in a 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots last Monday, but the Patriots are once again one of the NFL's best teams. They make a lot of teams look bad. And while Jets quarterback Sam Darnold threw four interceptions against the Patriots, he played very well in the Jets' previous game – a victory over playoff-contending Dallas.
Know this, too: Darnold will have plenty of incentive, what with Jets fans and the New York media questioning him throughout what could be the most difficult week of his short NFL career.
The Jets will be motivated. They have much to prove. That makes for a difficult NFL matchup. And no matter the record, the Jaguars haven't proven themselves to be a team that scores many easy victories.
The Jaguars don't need an easy victory Sunday, but they absolutely need a victory.
Here are 10 things they must to do get one:
1.Forget the record – and forget Monday. The Jets are 1-5 and were embarrassed Monday. Forget that. The Jaguars aren't good enough to overlook any team, and the Jets are capable of winning if the Jaguars miss opportunities as they did last week in Cincinnati. Which leads to …
2.Score in the red zone. The Jaguars' inability to turn opportunities into touchdowns last Sunday made a good offensive performance look like a struggle. The Jaguars must get in the end zone when they get close. Not doing so lets beatable teams stay too close.
3.Slow Le'Veon Bell. The veteran running back's statistics this season are unimpressive, but he has been the Jets' best offensive player. He's a patient runner who waits for defenders to make mistakes, and he's still capable of making defenders miss. The Jaguars' linebackers are beat up and have struggled at times staying in gaps this season. That group must be disciplined against Bell Sunday.
4.Pressure Darnold. We won't get sucked into the whole "Seeing Ghosts" storyline that's circling around Darnold this week, but the young quarterback struggled against the blitz Monday. The Jaguars must see if that was a fluke or a trend.
5.Run. Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette over the last month has played as well as he has in two and a half NFL seasons. He and the running game are becoming this team's offensive identity. The Jaguars must not lose that.
6.Work the middle of the field. The lack of a reliable, productive tight end has allowed Jaguars opponents to take away receivers on the outside in recent weeks, particularly second-year wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. Whether that means getting rookie tight end Josh Oliver involved more, or just getting another option in the middle, the Jaguars must make defenses worry about the middle.
7.Step up. Myles Jack is the Jaguars' only healthy front-line linebacker. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is out indefinitely with a core-muscle injury. Those are tough breaks, but the Jaguars need defensive tackle Taven Bryan and a couple of new linebackers to play well in their absence.
8.Play off the crowd. Sunday is the Jaguars' last game at the 'Bank until December. The team can get to .500 – and get very much in the postseason conversation – with a victory. The brutal heat of September/early October has subsided at last. This is prime football time in Duval. The Jaguars must take advantage.
9.Take the ball away. The Jaguars are 3-0 when forcing a turnover. They are 0-4 when not forcing a turnover. Statistics don't get more telling and clear than that.
10.Believe in the Stache. Minshew Mania has faded a little, but make no mistake: Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II is still playing better than most rookie quarterbacks. Minshew had his worst game as a professional two weeks ago at home. If Minshew makes some big plays, the 'Bank will be electric. The Jaguars must give him a chance to do just that.