JACKSONVILLE – Here’s this week’s Setting the Table: Storylines and stuff to watch as the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) prepare to play the Arizona Cardinals (5-4) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday…
The Jaguars did a bit of validating on Sunday.
Now, their task is to keep doing that – and maybe to do it in front of a very good NFC team and in front of the home crowd.
The Jaguars, fresh from their first victory of the season and the first victory of Gus Bradley’s head coaching tenure, on Sunday will play host to one of the surprise teams of the 2013 NFL season – the Arizona Cardinals, who have won their last two games to play their way into playoff contention in a balanced NFC.
The Jaguars’ focus this week will be maintaining the momentum from Sunday’s 29-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans, a victory that snapped a 13-game regular-season losing streak.
The theme in the post-game locker room was that the victory was at least a touch of validation for the approach of Bradley, a first-year coach who players respect and whose philosophy they believe is the right way for the Jaguars to build.
Toward that end, Bradley has continued this week to talk not of getting a second consecutive victory, but of continuing to improve daily, with the idea that if that happens, victories will follow.
On the field,
Henne has started the last two games in place of a healthy Gabbert, and Bradley on Monday said Henne will start Sunday. He said Gabbert needs to be ready in the event of an injury to Henne, but gave no indication of a change at the position.
The Cardinals (5-4) weren’t a consensus selection to contend for a playoff spot in Bruce Arians’ first season as head coach, but due in large part to one of the NFL’s most underrated defenses, they have played their way into the playoff conversation in the first nine games of the season. While wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is easily Arizona’s most well-known player, it is the Cardinals’ defense that has them in postseason contention. They rank 13th in the NFL defensively overall – third against the run – with linebacker Daryl Washington, defensive ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett and cornerback Patrick Peterson all among the NFL’s best players at their positions. Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has also quickly emerged as one of the league’s top rookies. Quarterback Carson Palmer has struggled at times with 15 interceptions this season, and an issue that will face Arizona entering the second half of the season is its schedule. They are 4-1 at home, and have won just one of four road games. They’ll need to fare better on the road to make a serious playoff push. Sunday’s game is the first road game for Arizona since October 13.
The game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville at 1 p.m. Sunday will be broadcast regionally on FOX and locally on WAWS-TV FOX30 with Dick Stockton on play-by-play and Ronde Barber providing analysis with Kris Budden on the sidelines.
Early matchup to watch
Player to watch
What to watch
*Jaguars middle linebacker