The Jacksonville Jaguars won't have a winning record for an eighth straight season, but could still make the playoffs.
Simply winning another game is all the reeling Atlanta Falcons want.
Looking to build on their most impressive win of 2015, the Jaguars try to send the visiting Falcons on their first seven-game losing streak in 12 seasons Sunday.
Despite its record, Jacksonville (5-8) is one game behind Indianapolis and Houston – the 6-7 co-leaders of the underwhelming AFC South. The Jaguars, who visit the Texans to conclude the regular season, need to finish with a better record than both to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007 with their first division title since 1999.
''It feels good to be in this position,'' tight end Marcedes Lewis said. ''But what really matters is what we do from here on out.''
Jacksonville can start by winning back-to-back games for the second time after rolling to a 51-16 home victory over the Colts last Sunday. Seven players found the end zone for the Jaguars, who scored on offense, returned a fumble for a touchdown and took a punt back for a score.
''You could see all three phases coming together,'' coach Gus Bradley said. ''I just saw improvement. That's the part that I'm really excited about. Now the challenge is to build on that.”
The building continues behind Blake Bortles, who has thrown eight TDs without an interception while Jacksonville's scored 90 points in the last two contests. In his second season, Bortles has thrown for 3,524 yards with 30 TDs and 13 INTs.
Bortles has thrown half of his 10 TDs in the last three weeks to Allen Robinson, who is tied for the NFL lead with a franchise-record 12 touchdowns catches and ranks among the leaders with 1,084 yards. After sitting a week with various injuries, teammate Allen Hurns returned to catch three passes for 105 yards and his eighth TD against Indianapolis.
Denard Robinson could start after rushing for 75 yards and a TD on 14 carries in place of rookie T.J. Yeldon, who left with a sprained knee last Sunday. The Jaguars also signed running back Jonas Gray off Miami's practice squad this week.
''We're not quite sure when we go into each game who's going to be targeted the most, how it plays out, but it's nice to have different weapons, difference skill sets with the guys on the perimeter and then the run game that we can go to,” Bradley said.
The Jaguars believe Paul Posluszny could return after missing a game with a broken hand. Without their second-leading tackler last week, Jacksonville held the Colts to 322 yards and an opponent to fewer than 20 points for only the third time this season.
A scuffling offense is one reason Atlanta (6-7) is in danger of losing seven straight for the first time since 2003. Following a 5-0 start, the Falcons have won one time since and are two games behind the NFC wild-card leaders with three remaining.
“Nobody wants to be part of that but we've got to find a way to get it done,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said.
Atlanta has averaged 13.7 points in the last seven games after scoring 30.5 in the first six. It's rushed for 118 yards in the last two weeks and had a season-low 230 total yards while bottoming out in last Sunday's 38-0 loss to undefeated Carolina. The Falcons lost their previous five games by an average of 4.2 points, but yielded their most points of the season while being shut out for the first time since 2004 last weekend.
''It was about as badly as we can play,'' said Ryan, who has thrown 17 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and posted a 86.8 passer rating this season. “That's frustrating. It's tough as a player (and) it's tough as a coach, for sure. Nobody wants to be a part of that.''
In addition to surrendering 424 yards, Atlanta players seemed to give up while its collective frustration surfaced. Agitated defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman had to be pulled away from defensive line coach Bryan Cox. Cornerback Robert Alford stopped pursuing Ted Ginn Jr. on the Panthers' 74-yard touchdown catch and offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder was replaced following a personal foul penalty.
''We look for smart, tough and finish,'' said first-year coach Dan Quinn, who addressed each situation with those involved. ''That's what I expect from our club. When that doesn't happen, yes, I have a lot of disappointment.
“I know what we're capable of playing like and when we don't, man it digs at you hard … I'm as motivated to get our football right as I've ever been my entire life.”
In the locker room, Falcons feel the same but must show it on the field.
“Tough times don't last, tough people do, so, and this is a serious check,” linebacker O'Brien Schofield said. “We are going to see who we are and we are going to go from there.”
Ryan threw three TDs in a 41-14 rout of Jacksonville in the most recent 2011 meeting.
- Allen Hurns
- Allen Robinson
- Atlanta Falcons
- Blake Bortles
- Carolina Panthers
- Denard Robinson
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Jonas Gray
- Marcedes Lewis
- Matt Ryan
- O'Brien Schofield
- Paul Posluszny
- Ra'Shede Hageman
- Robert Alford
- Ryan Schraeder
- T.J. Yeldon
- Ted Ginn