JACKSONVILLE – Here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the New York Giants at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1.Protect the ball. It may not be the far-and-away-No. 1 anymore, but it's still No. 1.
2.Go downfield.Yes, this is tricky when trying to do No. 1. And yes, it's tricky when the offensive line is having trouble protecting the quarterback. But not being able to throw downfield has allowed defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage. That makes passing tough and running almost impossible. However it happens, the Jaguars must stretch the field.
3.Relax.Blake Bortles may or may not have a confidence issue. The guess here is if he does have one, it's not a major deal. Still, you can't play quarterback worried about interceptions. Get back to early in the season. Make plays. Get outside the pocket. Relax.
4.Keep the pressure on.This goes out to the defense. It may not be fair to ask the defensive front to keep pressuring the quarterback as it has done all season. It's hard, hard, hard to do without the lead and the Jaguars haven't led much this season. Still, difficult or not, the line must pressure Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He'll make mistakes if pressured. Pressure him.
5.Defend Odell Beckham, Jr.Not to get too far off topic here, but did you see that catch? Did you? This guy can energize an entire team. He can make the spectacular catch in traffic, so even if you cover him, he'll probably make plays. But you have to make it as difficult as you can.
6.Don't let down.The Jaguars are 1-10 and well out of the postseason. It would be easy to let down – except that Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley's teams never have done that in two seasons. No reason to think they'll start now, but they sure can't do it and win Sunday.
7.Force turnovers …The Jaguars did this Sunday. They forced three first-quarter turnovers against the Colts. That kept them in the game, and though it didn't result in a victory it showed the importance of turnovers for this team. Without them, their chances of winning go down dramatically.
8. … and get points off those turnovers.This was the missing ingredient Sunday against Indianapolis. Because that ingredient was missing, the three turnovers created by the defense didn't help nearly as much as they should have. This defense has given the offense a chance to win a lot this season. Too often the offense hasn't taken advantage. That has to change if the Jaguars are going to win.
9.Grow up.Realistically, this may not happen. What the Jaguars need is seasoning and experience on offense, which will help reduce the game-costing mistakes. That means a group of players all maturing in a hurry, and that's a lot to ask. Still, if the Jaguars are to have a chance to get victories, maturity and growth are what's needed – realistic or not.
10. Make a play. Or two. Or …The Jaguars have had opportunities. They had a few point-blank ones against the Colts. But in the NFL, games more often than not turn on a play above the Xs and Os, a play that goes away from what was planned. The Jaguars' talent and experience level right now have kept such plays to a minimum. They need more. The league is about plays. The Jaguars must start making them.