The seventh game of the season is usually much too early for a team to have a make-or-break game.
Unless that team is the 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s hard to overestimate what the game Sunday against the Houston Texans means to the Jaguars after they lost three of their last four, including back-to-back blowout losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys.
The Jaguars came into the season with hopes of being a Super Bowl contender and looked like one when they started off 2-0, including a victory over the New England Patriots that avenged Jacksonville’s loss in the AFC title game last January.
But the Jaguars are now 3-3, and their home game Sunday will likely determine whether they have a shot to at least win the AFC South title.
Even John Oesher of the Jaguars’ official website said the game “could have a last stand feel in terms of team’s postseason hopes.’’
And while he noted that technically a loss wouldn’t end their chances, it would mean they would be out of first place for the first time since the 2017 opener and would have two home division losses and a three-game losing streak.
Oesher said it would mean another bleak Sunday in a season that began with high hopes.
“It would mean nothing good and would make the task ahead very tough,’’ he said.
Granted, the Jaguars would still be 3-4, but they would be in danger of being 3-5 going into their bye week because they play the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday in London.
And the second half would include four division games, including three on the road, plus a home game against Pittsburgh. The other three are against Buffalo, Miami and Washington.
Coach Doug Marrone said the team will go back to fundamentals, which is a cliché used by most coaches in bad times. He even had a training-camp type practice last Wednesday. Will that make a difference? We’ll see.
And they don’t know when running back Leonard Fournette will be back. He will miss his fifth game Sunday with a hamstring injury. There are reports he will be back for Week 9 after the bye, but there’s no guarantee his balky hamstring will enable him to play. Or whether he can stay health the rest of the year.
They’re so concerned about the running back situation that they traded a fifth-round pick to Cleveland for Carlos Hyde on Friday.
Still, the Jaguars are favored by about five points because Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is playing with a chest injury.
Although he’s not on the injury report, Watson probably isn’t 100 percent. On the other hand, the Jaguars have problems with mobile quarterbacks.
Somehow, someway, the Jaguars have to find a way to win this game if they expect to make a realistic run for the division title.
It is likely that if they lose to the Texans, they won’t win the division title this year and will be sitting at home during the playoffs because their wild-card chances aren’t good.