Byron Leftwich said he's not in the groove, yet, which is a somewhat surprising statement since Leftwich has thrown for 687 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Jaguars' three-game winning streak.
So how much better does it have to get for Leftwich to get into a groove? How will we know when he's in that groove?
"When I tell you," he said. "I'll tell you."
All right, so the quarterback thinks he has another level left in him. He thinks he can play even better than he has in recent weeks, during which he has moved into the top 10 of the NFL passer rankings. How much better? That's the burning question. The answer will probably determine how far the Jaguars go this season.
Nine of the top 10 passers in the NFL – that includes Ben Roethlisberger, who fell out of the rankings this week because he doesn't have enough pass attempts but he's likely to move back into the rankings following Monday night's game – are quarterbacks of teams with winning records. St. Louis' Marc Bulger is the only quarterback of a losing team among the top 10 passers.
What does it mean? What it's always meant. The best teams have the best quarterbacks.
It's always been that way in pro football. The quarterbacks are the centerpieces of the best teams the game has to offer. Just look at the quarterbacks who've won Super Bowls: Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, etc. It's a who's who of Hall of Famers.
We went through a little period a few years ago when the Rams, Ravens and Bucs won Super Bowls with one guy who came out of nowhere and two guys who were "just guys," but the pendulum has clearly swung back to the blue-chip passers and that's why Leftwich's ability to go to a higher level is so important for the Jaguars. If you wanna beat Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, you better have a quarterback playing at the highest level.
Look at the quarterbacks in the AFC playoff chase: Manning, Brady, Jake Plummer, Carson Palmer, Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Trent Green and Leftwich. Wow! That's an impressive group.
May the team with the best quarterback win.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do this Sunday to beat the Cardinals.
- Don't take them lightly—The Cardinals are 3-7 and as low-profile as it gets, but they won at St. Louis and they have a hot passer.
- Run the ball—Greg Jones will stand in for Fred Taylor at running back this Sunday and Jones is the kind of power runner who can control the game against an Arizona run-defense that has struggled.
- Rush the quarterback—That'll be the best defense against a Cardinals pass-offense that truly is potent. Kurt Warner has always struggled against a strong pass-rush.
- No big plays—Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are tall and talented play-makers. They'll get their catches, but the impact of those receptions must be kept to a minimum.
- Ignore the run—The Cardinals' running game is so bad – dead last in the league – the Jaguars should be capable of stopping it with a minimum of defenders. That's necessary because the Cardinals' passing game demands a maximum of defenders.
- See the big picture—It's Thanksgiving weekend and the playoffs race is at full speed. Don't get passed.
- Continue the climb—Leftwich is playing at the highest level of his career and he'll need to continue that climb if he's to become a championship-caliber quarterback.
- Score touchdowns—Because the Cardinals score field goals. Neil Rackers is 31 of 31 in field goal attempts this year, including six of six from 50 yards or more.
- Make your own excitement—A sparse crowd is expected so Jaguars players will have to energize themselves. The Cardinals are accustomed to playing in quiet conditions.
- Enjoy the weather—This is a great time to play in the desert. It's better than, say, playing in Cleveland, which is where the Jaguars will be playing the following Sunday.