The Jaguars and their coach are bristling with enthusiasm for Sunday's season-opener against the Denver Broncos.
"We expect a great crowd. We expect it to be nice and warm. We need to make that an advantage for us. We need to get off to a fast start. The opener will be huge for us," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio told the media on Wednesday.
So it begins, but to what is this the beginning?
"We'll find out," Del Rio said.
An offseason dedicated to heightening expectations and demands has reached the moment of reckoning.
"It's proving time. All the work we put in comes to a head on Sunday," Del Rio added.
The national consensus of media experts is that the Jaguars will not be a playoff contender this year, but Del Rio said way back on Jan. 4 in his season-ending review that his expectation for 2010 was to qualify for the playoffs. The national media almost unanimously has picked the Jaguars for last place in the AFC South, but Del Rio has already set the AFC South title as his team's goal.
"It doesn't matter what the analysts say. Sure enough, they'll have a Super Bowl champion out there that'll crash and burn. Seldom does it follow the script," Del Rio added.
Led by their coach, the Jaguars are taking an us-against-the-world attitude into this season, and all indications are the team's fans have joined the movement. The Jaguars are hopeful Sunday's game will produce the first sellout at EverBank Field since Oct. 22, 2007 (vs. Indianapolis).
"This community has answered the call," an upbeat Del Rio said of the ticket drive that has rallied the franchise's prospects on the heels of seven TV blackouts last year. "For them to step up like that, it gave our entire building a lift."
Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, of course, is helping to drive ticket sales for this game. No one knows if or how much Tebow will play in Sunday's game, but he's expected to have a large contingent of jersey-wearing fans on hand.
Will the Broncos have a special role, such as in short-yardage situations, for Tebow on Sunday?
"I would think they would," Del Rio said.
It's just as likely the Jaguars are preparing for such a role.
The Tebow factor is making this a big game for the fans. The fast start the Jaguars seek is making this a huge game for them. With a trip to San Diego ahead in week two, a fast start will likely hinge on beating the Broncos.
"I don't even know if he's going to be on the field. There's no factor at all for us," quarterback David Garrard said when asked if the Tebow factor pertains to the players. "If he gets in the game, good for him. I hope our defense welcomes him to the league."
"If he was the number one guy, there'd be a little more hype, but right now Orton is our focus," cornerback Rashean Mathis said of Denver starting quarterback Kyle Orton.
Orton led the Broncos to a 6-0 start last season, but the Broncos won only three of their next 10 and missed the playoffs. The Jaguars also faded down the stretch. They entered Dec. 7-5 and the leader for an AFC wild-card berth, but then lost four in a row.
The Broncos are building their hopes in 2010 around a greater understanding and application of coach Josh McDaniels' system. The Jaguars are pinning their hopes on consecutive draft classes that have primarily addressed the team's offensive and defensive lines.
"We're in a lot better position starting this year than we were last year. We're healthier and stronger than we were in our two lines. We're better in the trenches this year," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars will be counting on that improvement up front to help them prove the experts wrong and their coach right.