JACKSONVILLE – We'll say it again this week: this one's really big.
We can flip through pages of Jaguars storylines this week – chief among them the need to improve at quarterback and everywhere else – but all return inevitably to the same page.
Sunday is must-win – as close as it gets in the NFL in September, anyway.
There's no real argument from Jaguars players on that front. They put themselves in that positon, and it was clear they grasped said position Wednesday as they began preparing for the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field Sunday.
Not that they're going to say "must win," exactly. That's not the NFL way.
"It feels really, really important because we need to be able to get back on track and show people what we're made of," linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We need to show the composition of this team, and what we're made of.
"Last week wasn't us, but we have to prove it. That's the important part this week."
That's as close as most NFL players get to saying "must-win." They don't go there at 0-2, because there are too many examples of rough starts becoming beautiful seasons.
"I've seen the tides turn many, many, many times," Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said.
So, no, although Sunday's 38-14 loss to San Diego stunned players as joltingly as it angered and disheartened fans, words such as "must win" and "panic" weren't coming from players.
"I don't think you're out until you're officially out," Gipson said. "That's the mindset around here. No one's in Panic Mode right now. If we lose 35-0 this game, then maybe somebody would. We just have to put our best put forward. This is definitely a big game that can change the tide and get the ball rolling and we're excited about it."
Still, make no mistake: there's a bigness to this game against Baltimore beyond your normal Week 3 Game After a 0-2 Start bigness. There's an importance that can be felt underneath the quotes.
Didn't we say last week in San Diego was critical? Wasn't that the biggest game of the Gus Bradley era?
Yes, at the time that was true.
This one's bigger – and it's big in a far different way than a week ago.
The San Diego game was big for exciting, optimistic reasons. Jaguars players believed following a Week 1 loss to Green Bay that they were good, much improved. There was a general feeling among observers and most people who cared anything about this team that was the case.
The Chargers game felt like an opportunity to show it.
Baltimore week is different. Far less giddy.
The Ravens game isn't nearly so much a chance to show observers how good the Jaguars are as it is a chance to show the team isn't what it was in San Diego. It's a chance to recapture the confidence that had to have been shaken at least a touch last week. And it's darned sure a chance to take a first step to re-convincing fans this season has a chance to be different than past seasons.
There was in the locker room a decided resolve Wednesday. Quarterback Blake Bortles spoke of believing in Head Coach Gus Bradley's philosophies, and of eliminating his own "dumb" mistakes. Defensive end Roy Miller and other players talked of the need to focus on Sunday and not be concerned about the record or big-picture meaning of the game. Mostly, there was a heightened sense of urgency to absolutely not relive the punch in the mouth that was Sunday in Southern California.
"That's the goal: let's show people what this team is all about," Posluszny said.
This is not an unusual or an impossible situation for this team. They have faced adversity under Bradley before; they often have played well – at least comparatively speaking – in the situation.
"We got punched in the face, but there's no doubt in our minds we're going to be a really, really good football team," Posluszny said. "We have the people. We have the proper scheme. We have everything in place that we need. Now we just need to go out and perform.
"There's no doubt we have the ability to do that."
There are plenty outside the team who doubt that. But this is truly a week in which the Jaguars must shut out the noise and realize what is said outside their circles matters not a whit. And who knows? Maybe that's what this team needs – to realize that what they have is themselves, and that it's up to them to play better, to play more disciplined and to be the team on the field they believe they are in their minds.
That's what the Jaguars must show Sunday: resiliency, resolve – a lot more than they showed in sunny San Diego, anyway. More than that, though, they must win. Not come close. Not compete. Win.
Because while last week was big, this is bigger. The Jaguars know it.
Now, it's time for them to do something about it.