With the Jaguars having already clinched the AFC South and the NFL tiebreakers now dictating that they are locked into the #3 seed for AFC Wildcard weekend, the question becomes how do they approach the Tennessee Titans game Sunday?
Clearly, Jacksonville could rest banged up players (Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson and others), and prepare for the following week. That’s when, if the Titans are victorious, they would host Tennessee for a game with everything on the line for both clubs.
It’s not unprecedented, in fact numerous times in recent years, a team already in, has played their division rival with a chance to knock them out. It happened a year ago with the Giants, who had already clinched their NFC Wildcard spot and the #5 seed. They went ahead, played their starters against the Redskins who had to win to make the NFC Playoffs and knocked off Washington 19-10, ending their season. The New York victory, with nothing to play for, allowed Detroit to get the spot and #6 seed. It’s an example of what you can, not what you always will do.
So, Jacksonville could choose to do that same thing Sunday: go all out, beat the division rival and keep them home for January. For certain, the Chargers and Bills, who have to have the Titans lose to have any hope at a wildcard, are rooting for the Jags to do this, too.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone addressed the questions about going hard to defeat the Titans on Tuesday afternoon in a conference call:
“We’re 100 percent all in on winning this football game” https://t.co/zJBi8FeAme
— #Sacksonville (@Jaguars) December 27, 2017
So that’s what the coach is trying to convey to his team. Or is he just saying the right things to the media?
We won’t really know until Sunday and how he coaches the game.
The Jags very well could take the approach that Sunday doesn’t mean anything for them, and the real battle with Tennessee, who defeated them in Jacksonville in September, is next weekend.
That is the more realistic of the two scenarios, especially, if it’s obvious early in the game that the Titans are hitting/harassing, etc. Blake Bortles, and he continues to throw interceptions like he did last Sunday. Then, what’s the point in that continuing and planting negativity for he and the offense?
We know the Jaguars defense has been tremendous all year, but they showed weaknesses at times against Jimmy Garappolo and San Francisco. And further, you wouldn’t expect defensive coordinator Todd Wash to show an awful lost against the Titans, especially if they may be hosting Tennessee as soon as six days later.
As for the Titans, they must do everything to win. A report Tuesday night says that RB DeMarco Murray (above) has a torn MCL ligament, that he can potentially play with, and he will apparently try this week. If he can’t or isn’t effective, backup Derrick Henry is ready to be a “sledge hammer” between the tackles.
It will be interesting to see how the Jaguars go out and play this game against a division rival, especially if it’s close in the second half. It’s a rival that could have their season ended Sunday night by the Jaguars, if they want.
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