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Big weekend in AFC Central


This is an awfully big weekend in the AFC Central Division. It's a weekend that could leave five teams tied at the top at 2-2 each, or, it could send any one of the four teams currently tied for the division lead into a catch-me-if-you-can mode.

The key game is Tennessee (0-2) at Baltimore (2-1). With a win, Baltimore would take its first major step toward claiming its first-ever AFC Central title. In the process, the Ravens would strike a blow against the Titans from which they might not recover. Imagine that, the Titans, for whom many had predicted a Super Bowl title this season, are playing for their playoff lives this Sunday in just their third game of the season.

Cincinnati (2-1) is at Pittsburgh (1-1), where the Bengals can prove they're for real, or the Steelers might rise to the ranks of division title contenders. The Steelers will officially open new Heinz Field this Sunday.

Cleveland (2-1) hosts San Diego (3-0), fresh off the Browns' impressive win in Jacksonville. Eyes have turned toward Cleveland, and the Browns will clearly join the ranks of playoff contenders with a win over the Chargers, or lose the momentum they've built.

That brings us to Jacksonville (2-1) at Seattle (1-2). Here are "10 things" the Jaguars must do to win at Husky Stadium Sunday.

  1. Turn the crowd against the Seahawks--There is major fan unrest with Mike Holmgren and his rebuilding project in Seattle. It's important the Jaguars use Sunday's crowd to their advantage. They must not rally the crowd behind the Seahawks and turn this into a day of emotional bonding.
  1. Protect the quarterback--If Mark Brunell plays, he will only be a week removed from having suffered a concussion against the Browns. You get the point.
  1. Rush the quarterback--The seat of the Seattle fans' unrest is the quarterback position, where the acquisition of Matt Hasselbeck has become very unpopular. If Trent Dilfer replaces Hasselbeck, who is injured, the crowd will offer its support. The best way to change that is to sack Dilfer.
  1. Come ready to play--The Jaguars' intensity was not the equal of the Browns' for the start of last week's game. That has to change.
  1. Be careful of the crown--Husky Stadium is a college field with a typically high crown that falls dramatically from the center of the field to the sidelines. That must be acknowledged, especially by Brunell, who played his college football on that field. High crowns tend to force the ball high on sideline passes.
  1. Remember last season--The Seahawks traveled across the country at a low point in their season, then rallied late in the game to deal the Jaguars a blow that extinguished whatever chance the Jaguars had of rallying to make the playoffs.
  1. Don't panic--One loss isn't going to wreck this season. There's a lot of football ahead, and from the middle of October on the Jaguars are going to face one big game after another.
  1. Kick it through the uprights--Mike Hollis must reverse his early-season fortunes.
  1. Eliminate distractions--This has been a week of distractions that came in the form of harsh feelings for last Sunday's games and the fines it produced. Now it's time to focus totally on winning and what it requires.
  1. Cover punts--The Jaguars didn't do a good job of that against the Browns, and Seattle's Charlie Rogers presents distinct big-play potential.
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