Tennessee and Kansas City were two of the most trumpeted teams in the league in the preseason. They were picked for the Super Bowl by a lot of people who, today, are scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong.
What went wrong? Well, you did.
Examination of the obvious would've revealed a massive salary cap problem in Tennessee that invited injury. All you had to do was look at the history of other teams that had gone through the same kind of roster depletion. How long do you think a team can continue to lose its best players and stay on top?
Mystiques die hard. That's why the Titans' roster and cap woes were overlooked. Teams that are on top for a long time have to literally collapse before they lose their mystique. Even then, they are expected to re-emerge at any moment, as though winning is their pre-ordained destiny. They can't lose, they're the Titans.
In Kansas City's case, it's about fans' obsession with offense. The Chiefs have Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez. They can't lose. They score 30 points a game.
Yeah, but their opponents score more points. In their last three losses of the 2003 season, including their playoff setback to the Colts, the Chiefs allowed 45, 31 and 38 points. They couldn't even force the Colts to punt.
So what was to like about the Chiefs? They had a terrible defense last season and they did nothing to improve it in the offseason. What were they going to do, try harder?
The NFL has become a league known in recent years for producing unlikely champions. Teams come out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl or, in Carolina's case, make it to the Super Bowl, and we're dumbfounded.
Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Maybe we're just doing a bad job with our preseason picks. How else do we explain Tennessee and Kansas City? What was to like?
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Colts.
- Run the ball—This has never been more important. If the Jaguars don't control time of possession, they will lose. It's that simple.
- Stop the run—If Edgerrin James has a big day, the Colts will win. It's that simple.
- Pressure from inside—You don't have to sack Peyton Manning to be effective, just chase him out of the pocket. He doesn't throw on the run as well as he does standing still. Marcus Stroud and John Henderson need to be pass-rushers this week.
- No turnovers—No cheap points for Manning.
- Win field position—No short drives, either. Make him play with a long field.
- Pick your spots—The Jaguars will probably have to score more than 20 points to win, so ultra-conservative won't get it done. When the time is right, be aggressive.
- Unite with the crowd—Alltel Stadium is going to be a lively place. Feed the fans and feed off their energy.
- Don't allow big plays—The Patriots have been successful at this strategy. Denver and Kansas City got swallowed up by long plays down the middle in last year's playoffs, as did Green Bay most recently. Manning doesn't like nibbling. Make him do it.
- Be physical with Harrison—He's a finesse receiver. Rough him up.
- Make your field-goal attempts—Mike Vanderjagt will; Josh Scobee better, too.