JACKSONVILLE – On to Wednesday …
Yes, it's that weekly day we look ahead, which this week means putting the Jaguars' frustration and anger over an overtime loss in Indianapolis in the past, and looking ahead to Sunday's matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It's the state rivalry that's not really a state rivalry with the teams being in different conferences.
It's a matchup of teams that have struggled this season.
It's also a matchup the Jaguars very much need to win if they are to avoid slipping irrecoverably deep in the AFC/AFC South standings.
Yes, this game has a very urgent feel. That means the week leading to the game has an equally urgent feel. With that in mind, here are six questions as preparations begin:
1)Can Blake Bortles be consistent?This is turning into the most important question surrounding the Jaguars' second-year quarterback. He has had enough impressive stretches that you're sure he can play the position at a winning level. So far, he hasn't done it for more than a half. The impressive stretches are a good sign. The next step is more consistency.
2)Can the offense score in the second half?Just as consistency is the question with Bortles, playing well after halftime is the question with the Jaguars. Three times this season – against Indianapolis, Carolina and Miami – the Jaguars have played well in the first half, particularly on offense. The offense managed just three points in the second half of those games. That was enough to beat Miami, but not enough to avoid being 1-3.
3)Will the Jaguars intercept Winston?The Jaguars' secondary has three interceptions since the start of the 2014 season. Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown seven interceptions in four games. Pass rush is important to create interception opportunities, but the secondary appears likely to have opportunities Sunday.
4)Can the Jaguars bounce back?This is becoming a too-familiar theme, but that doesn't mean it's not a theme. The Jaguars responded well to a Week 1 loss to Carolina and beat Miami in Week 2. They responded OK to a Week 3 loss at New England, but missed too many opportunities against the Colts. The loss to the Colts hurt. It put the Jaguars in a dicey position in the standings. Another response is needed.
5)How healthy will the Jaguars be?Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny could miss time with a high-ankle sprain, and the team learned Monday it will be without right guard Brandon Linder (shoulder) for the rest of the season. The big unknowns this week: defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) and tight end Julius Thomas (hand), neither of whom has played this regular season. Look for updates Wednesday on Thomas and Friday on Marks.
6)Can the Jaguars keep running?The Jaguars had their best running game of the season Sunday, with running back T.J. Yeldon rushing for 105 yards on 22 carries. A major focus for the Jaguars was getting the running game to a point where the team could run when it wanted to run. The Jaguars did that better as the game went on, with Yeldon's longest run of the game a 36-yarder in overtime. Progress has been made here. Without question the Jaguars will try to keep making more.