Let's look beyond the short-term for a moment.
In the short-term, while at 1-6 the postseason isn't impossible, it's very difficult. That's too bad, because had the Jaguars won two winnable games against Oakland and Minnesota – overtime games, no less – we're spending this week discussing a team that could get into the playoff chase with a couple of attainable victories.
That's how close the NFL is, and perception to the contrary, how close this season is to being pretty darned intriguing, but you know what? This season is still pretty darned intriguing, and it got a lot more so last week when Blaine Gabbert threw for a career-high 303 yards and for the second consecutive week looked the part of a solid NFL starter.
That was real, and for the long-term prospects of this franchise, it was really, really important.
So, if you're a Jaguars fans, don't quit on the short-term. This team hasn't, and this team will continue to scratch, fight and claw. But at the same time, keep an eye on the long-term, too. The storyline there is whether the glimpses this team gave last week, Gabbert in particular, can become more than glimpses. The storyline there is if the glimpses can become a clear vision of what's to come, and whether that vision starts to look rosier.
Can Gabbert continue developing? Can this quarterback, and this team, show significant signs of growth? Those are the storylines now. If they develop, then the season can still be intriguing and in the long-term it can still be a success.
And while we keep that in mind, here are 10 things the Jaguars must do Sunday to beat the Detroit Lions . . .
1) Air it out. Maybe we're not at the point that Gabbert needs to throw 50 times a week, but then again, maybe we are. Gabbert threw 49 times against Green Bay and showed good judgment. There was never really a time that he put the Jaguars in high-risk spots. Let him keep throwing. That helps the development process, and may be the best chance to be productive, too.
2) Protect Gabbert.The Jaguars did a good job here last week, maybe the best job they've done all season. Gabbert had time to throw, and took advantage. That needs to be a trend, not a blip.
3) Catch the ball.The Jaguars had nine drops last week, continuing a season-long trend. Mike Mularkey said the receivers may be pressing too much, trying too hard to make big plays. It's a theory that has merit. Whatever the answer, the Jaguars need to find it.
4) Catch the ball.It's not a typo. It's not a cut and paste. It's just that important.
5) Keep stopping the run.That's doable against the Lions. Very doable. You still need to do it, because getting in third-and-long situations is still the best way to be effective rushing the passer, and against the Lions, it remains critical to...
6) Keep pressuring the passer. This has been better in recent weeks. Jeremy Mincey has improved. Andre Branch got a sack last week. Overall, opposing quarterbacks have just been a lot more uncomfortable the past two games than the first five. That's a huge factor in the Jaguars looking a lot better defensively during that time and will be a huge factor Sunday, too.
7) Run.The Jaguars have been passing better the last two weeks. That is good, and it must continue. Over time, that will be critical to developing into a winning offense. But this line should be run-blocking better than it has the last month. It needs to get that identity back. It's possible to do both well.
8) Make plays.Aside from the dropped passes, the Jaguars did more of this against Green Bay than at any other time this season. The result was they had a very real chance to win.
9) Play well for four quarters.This is from the, "Well, duh," files, but sometimes there's truth in those files. The Jaguars have yet to play well for four quarters. At home, they've had trouble doing it for two. They're getting closer, and this is as good a time as any to get it done.
10) Make layups.It has become a theme in recent weeks. First, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said it. Then, Mularkey did, too. It's about making the makeable plays. It's primarily about catching catchable passes, but it's about making makeable blocks and throwing the completable passes, too. It's about doing the things the Jaguars are capable of doing enough to start winning. The layups are there. Now, they've got to start going in.