Del Rio cautions team

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David Garrard called it the stretch run. Jack Del Rio referred to it as the meat of the Jaguars' schedule. Call it what you want, but everyone would agree these are big games.

"Right now is the stretch run, when you have to get hot," Garrard said on Wednesday, as the Jaguars began preparation for Sunday's game against visiting Buffalo.

The Bills are 5-5 and still in playoff contention. The Jaguars, 7-3, can douse the Bills' hopes, but Del Rio says that won't be as easy as the stats would indicate.

"We're right in the middle of this stretch of AFC teams; the meat of our schedule," Del Rio said. "You just have to watch the tape," he added in suggesting the Bills are better than their rankings: 31st on offense and defense.

"They had a couple of bad days against New England. We had a couple of bad days, too," Del Rio said.

Del Rio and his staff have spoken strongly to their players about not taking the Bills lightly, which might be the logical tendency for a team coming off a 56-10 loss to the Patriots.

The Jaguars are ever mindful of a collapse that kept them out of last season's playoffs, and they appear to be committed to not allowing that to happen this season.

"I hope guys aren't overlooking them," Garrard said of the Bills. "The coaches have made it very obvious that they are a good team."

"We don't have any reason for comfort," running back Fred Taylor said. "Sometimes teams get up with more urgency because they're underdogs. Those are stats. We're not gonna fall for that trap. They're a good team."

The Jaguars may have fallen into that trap last season when they lost in Buffalo, 27-24, on a day when the Jaguars allowed an 82-yard punt-return for a touchdown by Roscoe Parrish, and collapsed in pass-defense with 22 seconds to play in the game.

"I have to be better than I was last year," Garrard said. "Those (playoff) chances were dashed last year. That was a game we felt we should've won and we didn't."

Garrard is one the most intriguing stories in the league this season. He has come out of the backup ranks and risen sharply to fourth place in the league passer rankings. He believes this will be a special season for the Jaguars.

"I've said that since day one, just the way things have panned out for myself and the feeling around here. I definitely feel this team is headed for something great," Garrard said.

Del Rio wants his team to be great this Sunday. That's where his focus is.

The Jaguars will be without middle linebacker Mike Peterson, who sustained a broken hand in Sunday's win over San Diego. Peterson will undergo surgery on that hand next Tuesday.

"There's always concern when you attempt to replace somebody. We feel like we know Brian Iwuh and Justin Durant are guys who can run and hit. We've been pretty resilient," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars added depth at safety on Wednesday, signing veteran Lamont Thompson, who had been released by the Dolphins on Oct. 10. He had played for the Titans the previous four seasons.

Cornerback Rashean Mathis was expected to miss Wednesday's practice due to a groin injury. His status for Sunday won't be known until the injury report is released on Friday.

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