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Ten things: Texans-Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) runs after catching a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) runs after catching a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

LONDON – Call this one a "familiar feeling" with a "new feeling" mixed in.

Mostly, call this the most important game the Jaguars have played in London since …

Well, ever.

The Jaguars will play the Houston Texans at Wembley Stadium Sunday at 9:30 a.m., the seventh year in succession the Jaguars have played a home game at the iconic stadium.

The Jaguars are comfortable in Wembley and believe it's a homefield advantage. They're 3-3 there, including a few memorable victories. A blowout victory over Baltimore in 2017. A take-the-lead-and-hold-on-at-the-end victory over Buffalo in 2015 and a similar victory over Indianapolis the following year.

But no Jaguars game in London game has had the must-win feeling of Sunday's game.

They essentially had nothing on the line when they played there from 2013-2016, their playoff hopes in those seasons ended long before London. The Baltimore game in 2017 was Week 3; no one yet knew the Jaguars were bound for the postseason that season.

A Wembley loss to Philadelphia last season had a must-win feel, but considering the injury woes that already had beset the team, the season had an already-over feel entering that day. The loss only made that feeling stronger.

This season feels anything but over, and Sunday's game against the Texans has the same must-win feel as the Jaguars' games the last two weeks – victories over the Cincinnati Bengals over the New York Jets.

With a victory Sunday, the Jaguars will be on a three-game winning streak with a 5-4 record entering a Week 10 bye. They will feel very much in the postseason conversation with division road games at Indianapolis and Tennessee coming out of the bye.

The season won't be over with a loss, but they will need six victories in the last seven games to get to 10 victories for the season. That's a big ask.

No, the Jaguars need Sunday's game. And that makes it the biggest game the Jaguars have played in London. Here are 10 things they must do to win:

1.Follow the Stache. This team believes in rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II. They're 4-3 with him as the starter. He had his best career game last week against the Jets. He has momentum. So do the Jaguars. They must keep riding it.

2.Follow the Stache II. This is well worth repeating – and not just because it's fun to say. The Texans are struggling mightily against the pass. Their secondary is injured, and they lost All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt last week for the season with a torn pectoral. The Jaguars should be able to throw effectively against the Texans. They must do so to win.

3.Pressure Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. This takes precedence over all else when playing the Texans. Watson is a Most Valuable Player candidate. Houston's offensive line is vulnerable. The Jaguars' pass rush is their strength. If the Jaguars can disrupt Watson, they have a chance. If not, probably not.

4.Stop the run. If the Jaguars can't do this, they won't have a chance to do No. 1.

5.Navigate the pond. The Jaguars have six years' experience with this trip, this time zone and these circumstances. The Texans have none. The Jaguars must take advantage of that as they did in 2015-2017 and get an early lead, which leads to …

6…. Get an early lead. The Jaguars took early leads against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3 and the New York Jets in Week 8. The results were dominant pass-rushing days and their most comfortable victories of the season. That's the Jaguars' formula whoever the opponent.

7.Force a turnover. They're 4-0 when they've done it and 0-4 when they haven't done it.

8.Find a way to negate DeAndre Hopkins. This is far easier said than done. Former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey had success against the All-Pro receiver throughout his career with Jacksonville – and even with that success, Hopkins was productive. Cornerback A.J. Bouye and some safety help must keep Hopkins from controlling the game Sunday. Most importantly, the Jaguars must pressure Watson enough on big downs to keep him from passing comfortably to Hopkins. This will be a team thing, not a one-cornerback thing.

9.Get a big play from Leonard Fournette. The Texans are really good against the run, so a game-long dominant performance from Fournette may not be possible. But Fournette has excelled this season at breaking off long runs. If he can change field position and create points once or twice with a long run or reception, that could be the difference in what should be a close game.

10.Find a way. Somehow. This essentially is a must-win game, and the biggest to date in the season. It's possible the Jaguars could get ahead and win comfortable. If not, they must find a way somehow. Players and coaches have talked all season about resilience. This will be a day for that.

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