JACKSONVILLE – The week's theme is as obvious as it is real.
This is an important week for the Jaguars, as important a mid-December week as there has been around the franchise in a half a decade – something Doug Pederson stated clearly and early speaking to the media Wednesday.
"It's a big, exciting week," the Jaguars’ head coach said as the Jaguars (5-8) prepared to play host to the Dallas Cowboys (10-3) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. "It's going to be an electric atmosphere with the crowd that's expected here. It should be fun."
The Jaguars, winners of three of their last five games, in recent weeks indeed have made their preseason goal of playing meaningful December games a reality.
"We all understand how important this game is," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "Every game is important, but especially with where we're at."
While the Jaguars trail the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans (7-6) by two games with four remaining, a victory Sunday will ensure the Jaguars remain in the postseason discussion.
"When you're playing a game in December and January and it counts, it's always good to be in that position just because you're in a position to control your own destiny," wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said. "That's what it is for us. We love this challenge. It's urgent, for sure."
Despite their deficit in the standings, Sunday took on added importance for the Jaguars when they beat the Titans this past Sunday in Nashville. If the teams tie for first in the AFC South, the Jaguars will win the division if they beat the Titans in Jacksonville in the regular-season finale.
Head-to-head results are the first NFL postseason tiebreaker.
"This is another 'handle-business-and-get-where-you-need-to-be game,'" Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen said. "We can get closer to where we need to be. We know we have a big challenge. We're excited."
The Jaguars' remaining games: Dallas, at the New York Jets (7-6), at the Houston Texans (1-11-1), and Tennessee. The Titans' remaining games: at the Los Angeles Chargers (7-6), Houston, Dallas, at Jacksonville.
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"We understand how big this game is, and every game moving forward," Lawrence said. "This stretch is huge. We have a great opportunity. Our backs are up against the wall, and we have to fight our way out. I think we have the perfect group to do it."
Pederson agreed, reiterating on Wednesday what he has said multiple times this season – that whatever the result, he has liked this team's approach in his first season as the Jaguars' head coach.
"I do like where we're at," Pederson said. "Wins and losses are different, but where the team is mentally this time of the year, where the team is physically at this time of the year, where the team is from a health standpoint at this time of year … all those things are plusses for us.
"The way they practice during the week, how they prepare and get themselves ready to play [is consistently strong]. That's what you want to see as a head coach. Guys aren't shutting down. Even the games we've lost have been [mostly] into the fourth quarter and playing hard to the end. Guys are disappointed with losing.
"So, for me I like where the mental side of things are with this football team right now."
- Jaguars rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker sustained a high-ankle sprain Sunday against the Titans, Pederson said Wednesday – adding that the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft will be "day to day" this week. Walker did not practice Wednesday. "Anytime you lose a starter, potentially, that's going to take a little bit away from your offense or defense," Pederson said of Walker, who has 3.5 sacks this season – including a sack/fumble that led to the Jaguars' first touchdown this past Sunday. "He's really starting to play better as the season has progress and doing different things. You saw this past week him playing with his hand on the ground and coming off the ball a little bit more. He's just feeling comfortable with the scheme. But if that (Walker being out) happens, it's the next-man-up mentality." Pederson mentioned defensive lineman Arden Key and outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson as possibilities to play for Walker.
- Lawrence missed practice Wednesday with a toe injury; he missed practice with the injury Wednesday and Thursday last week and earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors with his performance against the Titans. Walker, cornerback Darious Williams (abdomen) and right guard Brandon Scherff (abdomen) also missed practice Wednesday. Safety Andre Cisco practiced full after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury, with rookie linebacker Chad Muma (ankle) and safety Andrew Wingard (shoulder) practicing limited. Williams, Scherff and Wingard all sustained their injuries against Tennessee while Muma missed the Tennessee game.
Swipe through photos of the Jaguars Wednesday practice ahead of the Week 15 game against the Dallas Cowboys.