The Jaguars playoff chances are all but gone at this point. Sure, the team isn't mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, but the Jags would have to win out and have a litany of teams in front of them just fall apart. The point is, it's not going to happen.
Now the Jaguars are in the unenviable role of playing spoiler. Last week Jacksonville was able to rain on Indy's parade. They shutout their division rival 6-0, ending the Colts five game winning streak and putting them behind the eight ball in the AFC playoff race. This week the Big Cats will have a chance to do the same thing against another divisional rival, the Titans.
Let's take a look at three things the Jaguars must do in order to steal a win from the Titans on Thursday night in front of a national television audience.
1. Pound the rock
The Titans run defense has been leaking like a sieve as of late. Over their last three games they’ve allowed rushing totals of 156 to the Jets, 281 to the Texans, and 102 yards to the Colts. That’s good news for the Jaguars, who will be getting Leonard Fournette back in the lineup after a one week suspension. Since Fournette returned from his hamstring injury against the Colts in week 10 the Jaguars have averaged over 165 yards per game on the ground in games that LF27 has played in and he’s found the end zone at least once in each contest. If the Jaguars can pound the rock with Fournette and company and make the Titans think with misdirections — even if only for a split second — they can take advantage of a front seven that has shown no interest in stopping the run over the last three weeks. Newly appointed play caller Scott Milanovich should look to employ some new-ish running concepts against these Titans. When this front seven has to hesitate at all they usually end up getting gashed for big yardage.
2. Make the big plays that are there for you defensively
The Jaguars defense has been better in recent weeks about making the big plays that are there for them. This group has forced at least two turnovers in two of the past three contests and is starting to resemble the 2017 juggernaut known as Sacksonville. With a full compliment of starters on the defensive side of the ball and the addition of rookie strong safety Ronnie Harrison in the starting lineup the Jaguars pitched a shut out against the Colts on Sunday. Yes, the same Colts who dropped 38 on the Titans just two weeks prior. When the Jaguars defense seeks to make big plays of their own they are a different group. Marcus Mariota has thrown just seven interceptions this year but he has fumbled the ball nine times. The Jaguars have got to get their hands on the football defensively.
3. Don't let Mariota beat you with his legs
With Marcus Mariota in the lineup the Titans have done just enough to beat the Jaguars three consecutive times. That’s right: the Jaguars haven’t beaten the Titans in 711 days. Over that stretch the biggest issues defensively for Jacksonville has been Marcus Mariota’s legs. During the Jaguars three game losing streak to the Titans they’ve allowed Marcus Mariota to average 45 yards per game on the ground and in the last two meetings have allowed totals of 60 and 51 rushing yards respectively. The Jaguars have got to keep Mariota in check. One reason they might be able to do so? Ronnie Harrison. In those three previous games the Jaguars had Barry Church in their starting lineup. One of Church’s infamous missed tackles came late in a loss to the Titans in the final week of the 2017 regular season when Mariota stiff armed Church to the ground on a pivotal third down. Mariota was then able to pick up a first down and effectively squashed any chances of a Jaguars come from behind victory. Ronnie Harrison resembles a heat seeking missile on the field and could very well make a difference in a key situation late in this one. If Mariota is able to rack up yards with his legs late in the game the Jaguars can kiss this game goodbye.
Will the Jaguars be able to do the unthinkable and win two games in a row? If they can accomplish these goals that I've set out for them they'll be in good shape. It's hard to know what to expect from the Jaguars week in and week out this year, but something tells me they'll be fired up for this one.
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