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When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed quarterback Nick Foles this off-season, it was for moments like this. The Jaguars are sliding out of the AFC playoff picture after losses in their last two divisional games and potentially could be looking at the season ending in a death blow if they lose on the road against Tennessee on Sunday.
Foles has been known to save a team that’s put in an interesting situation in the past. The last two seasons in Philadelphia, Foles came in for an injured Carson Wentz and led the Eagles to the playoffs in each of those seasons.
On top of that, he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl ring in 2017. So if any quarterback can pull this off, it’s Foles.
Now ahead of him on Sunday is a game against a team that they have not beaten on the road in six years. The last time the Jaguars have beaten the Tennessee Titans on the road was November 10, 2013.
On that same date, Foles was leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a 27-13 victory on the road against the Green Bay Packers. He threw three touchdown passes in that game.
Over the last five losses, Jacksonville has lost in the most interesting ways.
They lost to a Charlie Whitehurst led Titans (who won two games in his NFL career) in 2014, then Marcus Mariota put a stamp on a win after a 87-yard touchdown run in 2015.
In a 2016 Thursday night game, Jacksonville went down 27-0 at halftime to a Tennessee team that was 1-17 since 2014 against teams that were not Jacksonville.
What about in 2017, the Titans clinched a playoff spot by causing four turnovers and Derrick Henry caught a 66-yard touchdown pass as they won 15-10. And how can we forget Henry’s 99-yard touchdown run to seal a win last year.
Entering this Sunday’s game, Foles is making his third start of the season. He was knocked out of the game with a broken collarbone in the team’s opening game against Kansas City.
Last week in his first game back after missing seven games, he went 33-47 for 296 yards and two touchdown passes in their 33-13 loss against the Indianapolis Colts.
The main issue last week was the execution on offense. After taking a 7-0 lead on a Foles touchdown pass to D.J. Chark, the Jaguars punted five times, missed a field goal and had a turnover on downs in the next eight possessions before they got on the scoreboard again (the other series was the end of the first half).
Even though Jacksonville went 6-14 on third downs, most of those conversions were on the series that were not punts. On the series that ended in punts, the Jaguars did not convert one third down.
On a positive note, Foles has been brilliant in his career in games in November and December. He has a career record of 19-13 as a starter with 43 touchdown passes and only 19 interceptions.
Before last weeks game, Foles was 5-1 in starts after the calendar turned to November. His only loss was against the Dallas Cowboys where he didn’t finish the game and backup Nate Sudfeld took over.
If Foles can find Chark (who has three touchdowns in six quarters with Foles at quarterback), Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley (who caught six passes last week) on a regular basis especially on third downs, it should allow running back Leonard Fournette to have some space to run through.
With more first down chances, it will allow Fournette to add on to his 4.8 yards per rush on first and second downs this season.
All of these components will be needed if the Jaguars want to leave Nashville with a victory. If they can win on Sunday, the schedule could break in their favor as they make a playoff run.
They have winnable games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Chargers at home. They could also win road games against the Oakland Raiders and Atlanta Falcons before finishing at home against the Colts.
But before Jacksonville can look ahead, ending the losing streak against Tennessee must happen. If one man could lead the Jaguars to victory, it’s Nick Foles.