Whether it is in the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, or Major League Baseball, for a true sports enthusiast, there’s nothing more exciting than the atmosphere surrounding a “Game 7” of a playoff series.
The National Football League does not have this luxury. However, each week an NFL game can change the landscape of a division and can propel a team upward or spiraling downward.
This Sunday is not just another AFC South divisional game for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2018 season.
For the Jaguars, this pivotal seventh game of the season will define the team’s season based on the outcome. Sitting at 3-3 and returning home from two humbling losses (being outscored 70-21) the Jaguars can only go in two directions at the conclusion of the game with the Houston Texans on Sunday. Which will they choose? Will a leader on offense emerge? Are they a one-hit wonder?
Return of Sacksonville?
This is the week that the defense of 2017 needs to awaken and take over the game. A porous Houston Texans offensive line provides an opportunity for the defense to bounce back after being embarrassed the last two weeks in Kansas City and Dallas.
Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson is battling multiple injuries and has felt the brunt of being hit 70 times, including 25 sacks during the first six weeks. The Texans have yet to see the stats Watson put up during a handful of games in his rookie year, and the quarterback pressures are a huge factor.
Furthermore, a lack of a consistent running game from running backs Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue have not created opportunities to get the ball to a talented group of young wide receivers downfield for big plays.
All of these factors for the Texans offense plays into the hands of the entire Jaguars defense to have a special day, especially the front four anchored by Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue, and Dante Fowler. A front seven who racked up ten sacks in the first meeting with the Texans in 2017.
Time to duplicate and get back on track.
Offense Back To Basics
Which Jaguars offense will show up on Sunday? The one that shined in wins over the New England and the New York Jets? Or the offense that has been sluggish and careless in the three losses?
The offense has experienced attrition along the offensive line with injuries to left tackles Cam Robinson and Josh Wells, but it is time for a leader to stand up. A no-nonsense leader that will demand perfection and effort. Center Brandon Linder and left guard Andrew Norwell are prime candidates to embrace the leadership role. A leader to help with preparation for a talented Texans front seven featuring J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
The offense needs to execute the power running game, whether running back Leonard Fournette is on the field or not. First down chains need to move, mistakes and penalties need to be limited, and drives need to be completed with points.
Lucky Number Seven
A win in Game Seven will quiet the doubters who are saying the Jaguars are a team who benefited from an “easy” schedule in 2017 and are not true AFC contenders. The Jaguars will stay near the top of the division with Tennessee and create separation with Houston with a win against them. This win can calm the fan base and erases negativity across the radio waves and at the water cooler.
A return to a raucous crowd at TIAA Bank Field could be the shot in the arm that the Jaguars needs to win. A win this Sunday can right the ship as they prepare for a trip to London next week to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.