JACKSONVILLE – They need to get this one.
It needn't be one-sided, dominant, staggering or even all that impressive. When the Jaguars play the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sunday afternoon, the result needn't be any of the things their best selves have been so far in this still-young season.
No, all the Jaguars need to do against the Jets Sunday is win.
But make no mistake: They do need to win.
They need to win because they should win, and because it's time they win games like this. They need to grow up. They need to be the team they want to be, that they should be and that they have shown at times this season they can be.
Players know this, and tight end Marcedes Lewis took "should win" a step further.
"It's a must-win week," he said. "If you want to be a good team, you have to play at your standard, regardless of who you're facing, the circumstances you're in. You just have to play your ball. We're looking to go out and play our very best and live with the results."
Safety Tashaun Gipson agreed.
"We want to win this quarter, so it's a must-win for us in our mindset," he said.
Why is this one so important?
Why does beating the Jets matter more than, say, beating the Steelers next week or beating the Ravens last week? Statistically speaking it doesn't – and in the NFL the next game does have a way of becoming the most important game and therefore a must-win game.
"This is a must-win game because it's the next game," safety Barry Church said.
Still, this "next game" feels like it has some significance beyond a typical next game.
The Jaguars would be 3-1 for the first time since 2007, and they would be assured of at least a share of first place in the AFC South through the first month of the season.
How rarified is that air for this team? They haven't been two games over .500 since December 2010, and it's not a coincidence that that's the last time they were in first place after September.
Both of those things would be chest-out stuff for a long-suffering fan base, and those things couldn't help but bolster a growing confidence for what is still at its core a young, developing team.
But the biggest reason Sunday is a should-win/must-win deal for the Jaguars is players clearly feel it's that way. They clearly feel it's time for this team to stop talking about consistency and show consistency come game day.
The Jaguars showed what they believe they can be in a 29-7 Week 1 victory over Houston, then returned home for a 37-16 loss to Tennessee. While many observers muttered "Same-old Jags," the team stayed deaf to the muttering. It flew to London last week notably confident, turning in a confidence-boosting 44-7 victory.
The theme in the locker room this week was clear: This doesn't want to be an up-and-down, flex-one-week, wither-the-next-week team. This team believes it's different past versions.
If so, this indeed is a "should-win" game.
"That, for us, is going to be huge thing," Gipson said. "My mom sent me something that said, 'Jekyll and Hyde.' You can't go out and have a dominant performance like Houston, then lay an egg like Tennessee, have a dominant performance against Baltimore, then lay an egg …
"I don't think that's good for our morale or confidence. It would be huge if we can come in here and have to back-to-back wins. Guys in this locker room would begin to believe. We know we can play. It's about being consistent now."
The should-win part of this one has little to do with the Jets and everything to do with the Jaguars. This isn't about the perception that the Jets aren't a great team. No game in the NFL is easy. And despite the national perception that the Jets are playing for 2018, NFL players don't think that way. This Jets team won at home last week against a then-1-0 Miami Dolphins team. The Jets are confident. They are good defensively. And while the Jaguars do have two convincing victories this season, this isn't a team that has won remotely enough to think any game is remotely guaranteed.
No, for Jaguars players the should-win/must-win deal is all about themselves – and that's what it should be about for this team at this time. It's about what they want to achieve, about where they believe they're headed. They believe they're headed out of the double-digit-loss abyss that this franchise has been in for much of the last decade. And there has been plenty in the first three games to indicate they're right.
If they are, then it's time to win back-to-back games. It's time to be the team they believe they can be. It's time for no more Jekyll and Hyde. It's time for consistency.
It's time to get this one.