JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Sunday's game was supposed to be another stop on the Jacksonville Jaguars' Payback Tour, a chance to prove to the Tennessee Titans that the Jaguars are the team that controls the AFC South.
That's not how it worked out, however. The day ended the same way the past two meetings have: The Titans victorious and the Jaguars insisting that they're still the better team.
That didn't matter last season, though, because the Jaguars had 10 other victories and won the division title anyway. Maybe that happens again in 2018, but for now the Jaguars (2-1) ceded control of the AFC South to the Titans (2-1) and must spend the next two months figuring out a way to finally beat the team that has won five of their past six meetings.
"They have a lot of confidence and they came out and they played their game," said defensive end Calais Campbell, who had two sacks. "They just made one or two more plays than us today. No doubt in my mind that we can go up in their house and get a win. That's down the road and we'll figure it out when the time comes, but we're confident.
"We know that we can beat their team. They're a good team, obviously, they just beat us and they played good ball, but at the end of the day we're very confident when it comes down to it, when we need to win, we can get it done."
There were similar comments from other Jaguars players after the 9-6 loss at TIAA Bank Field:
Linebacker Telvin Smith: "This is a team that's gone on record saying they don't have any respect [for the Jaguars] and that they are the champs. And then they come out and beat us, and we know that we are [the defending division champs]. It shows us what we've got to do in the division. It shows us where we've got to go, but again, we're more than capable and next time we play them I guarantee we'll be more than ready and prepared to play them."
Free safety Tashaun Gipson: "If you look at it, offensively and defensively and special teams, those guys really don't have the type of guys we have in this locker room. ... Sitting 3-0 feels a whole lot better than sitting 2-1, and I believe they're on top of the division right now. It sucks, man. We know we're the better team, but this Sunday they were the better team and they won."
Well, the "better team" has scored just two offensive touchdowns and 32 total points in the past three games against the Titans. The Jaguars haven't scored an offensive touchdown in the past two meetings, and on Sunday crossed midfield just twice and never got inside the Tennessee 20.
The offense managed just 232 yards -- less than half the 481 they put up against New England the week before -- and two field goals, ruining a strong defensive effort (233 yards allowed, three field goals). That's not going to get it done against the Titans.
The teams are constructed similarly, at least on offense. A power run game behind a big back and a mobile quarterback who makes a couple key plays a game. The Jaguars' defense is better, with eight Pro Bowl starters, but the Titans have a pretty good unit, too. It's led by defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Logan Ryan, linebackers Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard, and All-Pro safety Kevin Byard.
"We have a good defense," Ryan said. "We can run the ball. We do what Jacksonville does, but we do it better than them."
There's really nothing the Jaguars can say about that, because it has been the case the past three meetings. The teams play next in Nashville on Dec. 6 on Thursday night, the Jaguars' only appearance in prime time this season. That's a long way away, but it's clear that until the Jaguars prove they can beat the Titans, the road to the division title goes through Nashville.