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Will the Jaguars Create Franchise History This Weekend? Quick Thoughts on Week 18

Quick Thoughts - Pregame - Week 18

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.

John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…

  1. Embrace the moment. This has been a weekly late-season theme, but it bears repeating: The Jaguars on Sunday have a chance to win the AFC South – and no matter the route to get there, that's a major opportunity for this franchise. Yes, the Jaguars have lost four of their last five games. Yes, they could have clinched a postseason berth sooner – and they still aren't guaranteed a spot. But a victory over the Titans will secure a second consecutive AFC South title and the accompanying home Wild Card Playoff game. That would mark the first time in franchise history the Jaguars have won back-to-back AFC South titles and it would mark the franchise's first back-to-back division titles since the 1998 and 1998 AFC Central titles. A victory Sunday would secure the fifth division title in franchise history and the ninth postseason appearance in franchise history. It would also mark the team's seventh 10-victory season. We're using the word history a lot in this quick thought, and why not? However the Jaguars arrived here, Sunday is very much a chance at history. And for a franchise that has had far more down seasons than up, such a moment should be embraced.
  2. New week, same formula. The Jaguars snapped a four-game losing streak with a 26-0 victory over the Carolina Panthers Sunday, helping set up Sunday's win-and-in scenario in Nashville – and restoring confidence to a team that lacked it for several weeks. They did it by playing fundamentally sound on offense and defense – and the thought here is the approach needn't change significantly in Week 18. We may not know who will start at quarterback – Trevor Lawrence or C.J. Beathard – for the Jaguars until Sunday. But the Jaguars beat the Panthers by not turning the ball over after committing 10 in the previous three games. They did it by running well after not doing so in nearly six weeks. They did it by stopping the run after struggling there in recent weeks. If the Jaguars repeat such a performance, they can do two things on Sunday they haven't done since the 1990s – win a fourth consecutive game against the Titans' franchise and win a second consecutive division title.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB C.J. Beathard (3) and QB Trevor Lawrence (16)

Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …

  1. There's still time to define this season. When the schedule came out last spring, I circled five games: The defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, the San Francisco 49ers, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. Four of the five were at home, two were in prime time and honestly the Bills game in London counted as a home game to me because the Jaguars know London better than any team in the NFL. The Jaguars went 1-4 through this gauntlet of playoff-caliber teams and looked out of place against the Chiefs, 49ers and Ravens. Sunday gives the Jaguars another opportunity to show up in a big game and qualify for the postseason – and to perform in a way it hasn't since beating the Bills in October at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. When the NFL drew a line in the sand this season and dared the Jaguars to cross it, they couldn't. Beating the Titans on Sunday and winning the AFC South title despite a disastrous December would speak loudly about this team's character, resilience and potential. It's time for the Jaguars to erase the line that separates them from the best teams, the teams that know how to win those big games, with a resounding win.
  2. Buckle up, Sunday's going to be a bumpy ride. The Titans aren't the same as those tough, hard-nosed Titans teams we all know and dislike intently; age and injury have depleted them this season. But they will be motivated to return the favor from last season when the Jaguars beat them in the regular-season finale to make the postseason. They also will want to send running back Derrick Henry out in style, with Sunday likely the final game of his storied Titans career. You can be sure there will be tributes and highlights on those big boards at Nissan Stadium of all the big Henry runs that tortured Jaguars players and coaches through the years. Stopping the run is key for the Jaguars this week. In five games in which Henry has rushed at least 18 times, he has averaged 114 yards per game. In 12 games with 17 carries or fewer, he has rushed for 37 yards per game. Henry rushed for 38 yards on 10 carries in the Jaguars' victory over the Titans in November. That won't be easy to replicate this week. The Jaguars' defense must come locked and loaded on the line of scrimmage to win their 10th game of the season and second consecutive AFC South title.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans

WR Christian Kirk (13)

Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...

  1. Finally, some help is on the way. Just a month after undergoing surgery for a core injury, wide receiver Christian Kirk returned to practice this week with and possibly returning to game action before the end of the season. That seemed like a long shot when Kirk was injured against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13, but now the Jags' most reliable wide receiver is on track to play in the regular season finale. The Jaguars medical and training staff clearly deserve a raise after this season.
  2. Allen continues to get the recognition he deserves. Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen on Wednesday was chosen for the 2024 Pro Bowl Games just a few days after setting the franchise record for sacks in a single season. Allen joins long snapper Ross Matiscik as the sole representative of the Jaguars in this year's competition. While the Pro Bowl can often be a popularity contest, Allen has earned his spot this year after a career-season. It's clear that Allen has embraced his contract year and now a national audience has taken notice.

From the parking lots, to the Fan Entertainment Zone, to the seats you all bring the energy 💥 Thank you DUUUVAL for such a memorable 2023 fan appreciation game! See you in the Bank soon 🖤

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