JACKSONVILLE – This isn't where the Jaguars wanted to be, but they're here nonetheless.
With a 4-8 record after back-to-back disappointing losses to San Diego and Tennessee, the Jaguars are all but out of the playoff chase. That has given the last four games of the regular season a cosmetic – if not at all unimportant – feel.
Can the postseason be attained? Doubtful.
Can a positive impression be left? Absolutely, particularly if Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and the rest of an improving offense can build on the momentum of a six-touchdown performance last week in which Bortles threw three of his career-high five touchdown passes to Robinson.
That's one issue this week. Another is whether the Jaguars can generate a pass rush. Still another is if they can get a struggling defense going enough to upset the two-time defending AFC South Champion Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts (6-6) enter Sunday tied with Houston for first place in the AFC South. The Colts can win the South if they beat Jacksonville Sunday and Houston next week – if the Texans lose to New England Sunday.
The Colts have won six consecutive games in the series.
Here are six important questions as the Jaguars begin preparations for Sunday:
1)Can the Jaguars snap the string?Just two weeks ago, the Jaguars had a feel of a team on the rise learning how to win close games. They may still be on the rise, but they have lost a couple of tight games in back-to-back weeks. The playoffs are unlikely now, but the Jaguars need to get back to closing out games to have a shot at keeping the losses this season to single digits.
2)Can they do that single-digit-loss thing?The Jaguars haven't finished with fewer than 10 losses since 2010. That remains an attainable goal, but they need to win three of their final four games – and winning the next two games at home (Indianapolis, Atlanta) would be a huge step in that direction.
3)Will Posluszny play?The veteran middle linebacker sustained a fractured right hand late in the loss at Tennessee. He wasn't ruled out Monday, and his status figures to be an issue all week. Posluszny struggled at times in coverage on Sunday, but his presence against the run remains critical to this defense.
*4)Will the Jaguars get pressure? *This appears likely to be an issue the rest of the season. The issues the Jaguars have had getting pressure with four down linemen have been well-documented, and they appear unlikely to get solved this season. That has meant increased blitzing in recent weeks, which in turn has left the defense vulnerable to big plays. That's not ideal for a defense that depends on getting pressure with four, but that's the Jaguars' reality.
5)Will the offense stay hot?This could read "Will Bortles stay hot?" As the second-year quarterback has improved this season, so has the Jaguars' offense. The longer the season goes on, the more Bortles/Robinson/the Jaguars' offense looks like something around which to build. The stronger that area looks in the final four games, the better the future looks.
6)Will the red-zone thing continue not to be a thing?Remember? This time last week? When all Jaguars talk centered on the team's struggling red-zone offense? Well, the offense scored six touchdowns on six red-zone trips against Tennessee Sunday. That sort of efficiency is unlikely every week, but if the Jaguars are going to win they must continue to score touchdowns near the goal line.