The Jaguars are facing what some people believe is a must win on Sunday in Indianapolis. Winning may be just as important for the Colts, who've made a habit through the years of starting fast and holding the division lead down the stretch.
At 0-2, a win would do wonders for the Jaguars. It would leave them no worse than tied for second in the division and even their record within the division. It would also send the Jaguars back home for two games that could put the Jags over .500 and back on the high road predicted for them.
What if they lose? The answer is obvious.
The Colts, 1-1, are in a similarly desperate position. The division-leading Titans are hosting the Texans on Sunday and the Colts could find themselves trailing the Titans by two games if the Colts don't beat the Jaguars, and falling behind in the division race early in the season has not been the Colts' formula for success in recent years.
"I think the key to our success early is that our offense has been so stable over the years. We're able to get off to good starts and we're executing a little bit better on offense than a lot of teams we played early and that allowed our defense and our specials teams to kind of find their way. That hasn't been the case so far," Colts coach Tony Dungy said.
The Colts offense is a lowly 18th in the league through two games and its rush-offense is dead last. Quarterback Peyton Manning may have found his groove in the Colts' fourth-quarter rally to beat the Vikings last Sunday but, truth be known, the Colts have only played one good quarter of football in eight so far this season.
"Hopefully, we can continue to find ways to win in Sept. and Oct. because it definitely helps you to get that good start," Dungy said.
The greatest obstacle Dungy faces early in this season is the loss of star safety Bob Sanders to a high-ankle sprain. Two years ago, the Jaguars rushed for 375 yards against the Colts when Sanders was sidelined by an injury.
"I'm sure that's what they're thinking of and I know they're going to try to get their running game going. You've got two backs who are probably in the top six backs in the league and they're both averaging under three yards a carry. That's not characteristic of Jacksonville. We know we're going to see a heavy dose of that," Dungy said.
Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have rushed for a combined 97 yards in two games this season. Not only does neither one have a 100-yard game, both of them have yet to combine for 100 yards in two games. Amazing!
Jones-Drew went public this week with his request for more carries and his coach, Jack Del Rio, made it sound as though he will comply.
"He's just echoing my sentiments. I've already expressed that myself. We've got to get him more touches," Del Rio said.
Earlier this week it appeared wide receiver Jerry Porter would get his first touches as a Jaguar, but after not appearing on the practice/injury report on Wednesday, Porter surfaced on Thursday as "limited" due to his recovery from hamstring surgery in July and Del Rio said on Friday that Porter is "not likely" to play against the Colts.
The Jaguars will be without linebacker Justin Durant due to a groin injury. In most other ways the Jaguars are in addition, not subtraction. Their offensive line would seem to have stabilized significantly since losing guards Vince Manuwai and Mo Williams for the season in the opener. Center Brad Meester has even returned to practice in a limited way, which would seem to indicate Meester may be nearing a return to action.
If the Jaguars' arrow is finally starting to point upward, it couldn't happen at a better time. Even quarterback David Garrard agreed that this is a must-win game. Del Rio, of course, wouldn't go so far as to agree that one game is more important than any other.
"I haven't seen one that isn't a must win, in my eyes. Talking about it hasn't really led to anything; don't know that it ever will. Clearly, you must win at some point or you're not going to have much fun, but try to build this game up to be more important than our opener in Tennessee? No," Del Rio said.
Defensive tackle John Henderson put it in simpler language: "It's 0-2. You don't like it so you get hungry."
The Colts may be facing similar hunger pains.