JACKSONVILLE – Everything's moved up a day. Or two. Or three.
Such is the nature of the NFL week when playing on Thursday, which means the day to move forward this week is Tuesday rather than Wednesday.
And as the Jaguars look ahead this week to the Tennessee Titans, they do so knowing that Thursday's game at EverBank Field is important. It's the biggest game of this season to date, and perhaps the biggest for this franchise in several seasons.
Yes, the Jaguars are 3-6. And yes, they have struggled at times.
But because of a miraculous, controversial victory in Baltimore, they still enter the weekend a game behind the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. That means the Jaguars have a very realistic chance to remain in playoff contention throughout the rest of the season.
This is a big week. There's a lot on the line, and if the Jaguars win, next week's bigger.
Here are six important questions as the Jaguars continue preparations:
1)Will the Jaguars capitalize?Realistically, there's no way should the Jaguars be talking postseason. But the way the season has played out, they have a real opportunity. They're also playing as well as they have all season, winning two of three games and having a chance to beat the New York Jets in the other game. The Jaguars can be a real factor, but to do so, they have to close games better than they did early in the season.
2)Can Blake Bortles grow up?This is an ongoing question, but one that has urgency as mid-November moves toward Thanksgiving. Bortles has improved since last season and has thrown 19 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, but the victory over the Ravens was perhaps his worst game of the season. He still threw two touchdowns – and most importantly, the Jaguars still won – but he was as inaccurate as he has been all season. Bortles is the guy for the long haul, but if the Jaguars are to contend this season in the short haul, he must eliminate some avoidable mistakes.
3)Will Hurns be available?To listen to Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, the answer is "yes." Bradley said this week he wasn't overly concerned about Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns, who played through foot and core injuries Sunday to catch a touchdown pass in a franchise-record seventh consecutive game. Hurns saw a specialist for the core issue in Philadelphia Monday, but that visit was scheduled before Sunday and Bradley said he believes Hurns will play Thursday.
4)Can Sen'Derrick Marks be replaced?To listen to anyone around the Jaguars, the answer is "no." Still, the Jaguars likely will be adjusting again to life without Marks, their 2014 sacks leader who sustained a torn triceps against Baltimore Sunday. Marks was beginning to play like his old self in the last two games after missing the first five games of the season while rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury. If, as appears likely, Marks is done for the season, then that's a significant hole in the defensive interior.
5)Will home be sweet?Partly because of the commitment to play a home game in London, and partly because of quirky scheduling, the Jaguars have played at EverBank Field once since September 20. That was a 31-20 loss to the Houston Texans. The Jaguars play four of their next five games at home. That stretch could work in the Jaguars' favor, but only if they win.
6)When is a victory a victory?This doesn't pertain much to the Texans game, but it's going to be a topic when players and coaches talk to the media Tuesday: the NFL on Monday said that the play shortly before the Jaguars' game-winning field goal this past Sunday shouldn't have been allowed. In turn, the league said the game should have been over and the Jaguars shouldn't have won. Essentially, the league said all 11 players on offense weren't set when center Stefen Wisniewski snapped to Bortles with :01 remaining. That meant a false start should have been called, which would have meant a 10-second runoff and Baltimore winning, 20-19. Instead, the Jaguars won 22-20. This will be a topic, but the Jaguars are 3-6. That's not going to change.