JACKSONVILLE – There was more looking ahead Monday than back. A lot more.
That's the understandable nature of things around TIAA Bank Field this week, with a short week to prepare for one of the biggest regular-season games in Jaguars franchise history.
"We're ready to go," Head Coach Doug Pederson said Monday.
Pederson, speaking a day after a 31-3 victory over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday, said the reality is there's little time to focus on that game – the Jaguars' fourth consecutive victory and sixth in eight games.
The Jaguars (8-8) will play the Tennessee Titans (7-9) at TIAA Bank Field Saturday at 8:15 p.m., with the winner of the Week 18 regular-season finale winning the AFC South.
The Jaguars would win the division if the teams tie.
"It's a playoff game," Pederson said. "It's win and you're in. It's a playoff atmosphere. It will be fun to be in a full stadium, a loud stadium, a home crowd. Guys will be jazzed up and will have a lot of energy. That's what you want. That's what's we're trying to build here.
"That's the culture you want. We want full stadiums every Sunday."
Added Pederson, "I've always said you want to be one of the teams that's in the conversation at the end of the season. Obviously, us and Tennessee are in the conversation. It's a great opportunity for our organizations to play Saturday night in a prime-time game and showcase what we've got."
The NFL announced the game's time and date Sunday night. The Jaguars will have had five days off between games. The Titans, having lost to the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday, will have had eight days between games.
"There are always opportunities to reach out and express your concern with that, especially with Tennessee playing a Thursday game," Pederson said. "At the end of the day, we're excited to be here, to be in this type of game. It's great for our players, great for our city, to host it here in Jacksonville this Saturday night."
The Titans rested multiple front-line players in the loss to Dallas, their sixth consecutive loss. Neither teams' Week 17 impacted the AFC South race, with both teams knowing they needed a victory over the other in Week 18 to win the division.
The Jaguars took a 28-0 lead on the first drive of the third quarter Sunday, after which quarterback Trevor Lawrence did not play. Running back Travis Etienne Jr. and right guard Brandon Scherff also did not play the final quarter and a half.
"It takes some wear and tear off their bodies and we were fortunate enough to do that in this last game," Pederson said.
Multiple players, including Lawrence, said the offense didn't play its best game against the Texans. Lawrence completed 17 of 21 passes for 152 yards with an interception, though the offense did produce touchdown drives of 45, 62 and 75 yards.
Pederson, as he did in Sunday's postgame, noted the odd circumstances around the game when discussing how to analyze the performance.
"This is probably not the game to study; it's more or less [one to] move on from," Pederson said. "There were a lot of distractions around the football team last week. My main focus was to keep them focused: task at hand. You guys were asking questions about meaningless games and this one doesn't matter and why are you playing? You're kind of fanning the flame. I'm trying to go the other way.
"It's hard. There were a lot distractions around the game. What I'm most proud of is how the guys handled their business. It wasn't perfect, like Trevor said. It's a coaching moment where you have to understand everything we do matters. There are some takeaways from it, but for the most part we're not even going to spend a lot of time watching this game with the players.
"We're on to Tennessee."
- Pederson: "These games, you shouldn't have to check the pulse of anybody. They should be fired up and ready to go. These are games you want to play in as a player and you want to coach in as a coach. It's part of the culture we're trying to establish. You want to be here at the end with an opportunity to play in the postseason."
- Pederson on the Titans: "We're Week 18. There's not a lot of secrets with both teams. They know us. We know them. It's just going to be a real good football game."