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View from the O-Zone: This one feels big

Posted Oct 19, 2017

Oehser: When you’re contending in the NFL, all games are big – but the Jaguars’ game Sunday against the Colts seems a little bigger than normal

JACKSONVILLE – When you’re in it in the NFL, they’re all big.

That’s what we’re learning – remembering, actually – with the Jaguars taking on the feel of contenders after a more than a half decade deep in the standings.

They’re in it; staying in it is the thing now. So, while a game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday isn’t “must-win,” considering the circumstance …

Considering the potential feeling for a couple of weeks if the Jaguars don’t win …

Considering all of that …

“It’s very big,” cornerback A.J. Bouye aid Wednesday as the Jaguars (3-3) prepared to play the Colts (2-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m. “You don’t ever want to be behind, so 4-3 would be better than 3-4.

“I don’t know what else to answer for that. Four-and-three is better than 3-4.”

Bouye smiled at the obviousness of his answer, but he couldn’t have been more right:

Four-and-three indeed is better than 3-4, and there’s a huge difference for this team between a victory and a loss on Sunday.

Part of it is what 4-3 would represent. A lot good has happened for this team in the first six weeks of the season, and 4-3 would re-emphasize what many believe – that this is very much an improved team that deserves to be over .500 and in first place.

Three-and-four? That would symbolize the other stuff: the games that got away, the missed opportunities...

It would also mean entering the bye week on a two-game losing streak.

“It’s still early enough in the games, and the division is so close, that it [a loss] is not going to kill you,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “But this is a very important game. The team we are, and how good we can be, it’s important for us to get this ‘W.’

“It would not feel right. Having a losing record halfway through the season and going into the bye, with our talent … that’s not good enough. We’re too good for that.”

There’s more to the importance of Sunday than representation and feel, of course. The game is big in fact – and the game is important in the AFC South.

This division isn’t just competitive. It’s ultra-competitive – there for anyone, Jaguars included, to take. The three teams tied for first are intertwined in such a way that it’s hard to find a difference.

The Jaguars (3-3) won by 22 points at Houston (3-3), which won by 43 points at home against Tennessee (3-3), which won by 21 points at Jacksonville.

Yes, it’s wide open. The Jaguars look good defensively when things are right. The Texans look good offensively right now when things are right. The Titans look good when they’re running well and when quarterback Marcus Mariota looks like he did Monday night.

The Colts are a game behind, which means all teams are in it.

The Jaguars can go 2-0 in the division on the road with a victory. That’s a huge step for a team trying to win its first division title in 18 seasons.

“It’s huge,” Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. “Every game so far has been huge; we want to be a consistent football team and win week-in and week-out. It feels as though we have the team to be able to do that, to win on a weekly basis, and there’s not a bigger game than a divisional game within the season, so it’s definitely a big one going into the bye week.”

So, is this game a must-win game? No, not technically. Must-win games are games in which the season essentially ends with a loss. This isn’t that, but this game seems like the next biggest thing – and it certainly would give this team the feeling it wants entering the bye.

The Jaguars have looked really good three times this season. They’ve looked good defensively in pretty much every game. They’ve won three games they absolutely deserved to win, and they’ve lost a couple they could have and perhaps should have won.

Yes, this team deserves to be in first place. A victory Sunday would solidify that feeling. It would do more than that. It would give them a 4-3 record at the bye – their best record after seven games since 2007.

It also would ensure them of being tied for first place at the bye, and set up a very interesting final nine games. Everything lies ahead for this team. That’s true whatever happens Sunday, but it’s really true if the Jaguars win.

Yeah, when you’re in it, they’re all big, but in this case a victory in this big game would mean being 4-3. That’s always better than 3-4.

It’s just that in this case it would seem so much better.

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