JACKSONVILLE – This piece won't emphasize the importance of Sunday's game. At least not much.
It's clear the Jaguars' matchup Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens is critical: to keep the Jaguars from falling to 0-3, to show they're better than they were against San Diego last Sunday, to prove they are indeed capable of competing this season …
Players know those things. Readers know those things.
We've discussed these things all week, and the discussion will last through kickoff Sunday at 1 p.m.
What hasn't been discussed as much is that the Ravens are a tough task – and that whatever the Jaguars' motivations in this game the pressing issue is how to beat Baltimore.
The Ravens are not only 2-0, they have quarterback Joe Flacco back after he missed the final six games of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. This isn't a dominant team, and they're not playing at an elite-level yet. But they remain a tough out.
Another factor Sunday: the Ravens might have a touch of motivation after losing to the Jaguars in Baltimore last season on a bizarre, last-play field goal that came after time expired – and all of that only after defensive end Elvis Dumervil grabbed Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' face mask to give the Jaguars an untimed field-goal attempt.
So, those are the storylines. That's the set up.
What must the Jaguars do to win? Here are 10 things:
1.Get better play from the quarterback position.The San Diego loss wasn't all Blake Bortles, but a lot of it was. The Jaguars can't win with their quarterback committing three first-half turnovers; few teams can. This area must be better. There's no alternative.
2.See No. 1.It's that important. It's time for Bortles to be a reason the Jaguars win games. There will bad days, but they must be about things he can't control. The first-half turnovers last week could have been controlled. Those have to go away.
3.Stop the run.The Ravens haven't been a dominant running team this season, but last week's performance against San Diego reminded us the importance to the Jaguars defense of stopping the run. If it can't stop the run it won't stop much else.
4.Play disciplined I.The Jaguars have committed 23 penalties in two games. Stop that.
5.Play disciplined II.Is it coaching? Is it player error? Whatever it is, missed assignments and avoidable mental errors were an issue against San Diego. There's no such thing as a perfectly-played NFL game, but there is such a thing as a better-played game than we witnessed in Southern California.
6.Start fast.Wait … we're back to this? Yes. The Jaguars have fallen behind 7-0 in both games this season. They recovered to lead the Packers 10-7 and 17-14 in Week 1, but they never recovered against San Diego. Try it the other way. Get a lead. That enables you do to a lot more things you want to do as opposed to things you have to do.
7.Stop Dennis Pitta.Pitta has recovered remarkably from his long-time hip issues and is again a go-to target for Flacco. He plays tight end, and the Jaguars' past issues against tight ends are well-documented.
8.Stop the explosions.The Jaguars allowed three plays of 40 yards or more last week. Flacco will test the Jaguars' secondary early and often. The Jaguars signed free safety Tashaun Gipson to be a sideline-to-sideline pass defender. He will get his chance Sunday.
9.Cut out the noise.There's more noise, talk, yelling, emailing, commenting, Tweeting and any other way you want to communicate out there about the Jaguars this week than there has been in a long time. Ain't a lot of good, either. You know what? So what? Use that to rally, to prove to the Tweeters they're wrong … whatever … just don't worry about it. It doesn't matter come Sunday.
10.Know the moment.This game is big. It's not enough to play well and lose. The Jaguars need this game. They're at home against a team that hasn't been dominant. It's the same theme as last week in San Diego in many ways – just with a few extra doses of urgency splashed in. The Jaguars need to win for many reasons. They must make it happen. Somehow.