JACKSONVILLE – This one matters a lot.
The standings and situation make it obvious – and listening to Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard, Sunday's importance is just as clear. It's a win-and-get-in game for the Jaguars.
It's also about history, which Wingard said makes it a potentially very cool thing.
"It's a big opportunity," Wingard said.
Wingard, who in five seasons since signing with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent has emerged as a team leader and captain, joined senior writer John Oehser for this week's 2023 Week 18 O-Zone Podcast. He discussed multiple topics, including the importance of being named a team captain this season.
"That really does mean a lot," he said. "It's cool that the guys see it and it's not fake. It's not like you're just some rah-rah guy that talks. It's actions, and that's the coolest part for me – being able to sit in those captains' meetings on Wednesdays.
"It has been a challenge, too, for me. Before, you just go play. Being a captain, the success and failure of the team is now kind of correlated back to you as a leader of the team. If I was to look back on the season, not that it's over, but it has been a great year for me in terms of growth and in terms of how to talk to the guys, how it comes off, the things you say.
"It has been super cool. It's the highlight of my career so far. Just wearing the 'C' on the jersey … it's really freaking cool. I can't lie."
Wingard, too, talked about how he rarely goes out in Jacksonville without people repeating to him his mantra "It Was Always the Jags" – a phrase popularized by Wingard last season and one that became a rallying cry for fans and players during the team's run to the 2022 AFC South title.
"It was something that just came to me and in the heat of the moment you say something – and it becomes kind of a driving force into a playoff run; that's kind of the coolest thing to me," he said, adding with a smile:
"Yeah, I get it all the time."
The Jaguars, who lost four consecutive games before a victory over the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday, can clinch a second consecutive AFC South title with a victory Sunday. They never have won back-to-back South titles and last won back-to-back division titles in the AFC Central in 1998 and 1999.
"It has been a great growth year with so many lessons learned and stuff like that," Wingard said. "We've never been in this situation where week in and week out you have to be a contender, against a first-place schedule. Now, here we sit. It's about going to do it.
"You do think about that. It really gets you going and really gets you excited."
Listen to the entire O-Zone Podcast with Wingard below. To listen to move To listen to the entire O-Zone Podcast with Wingard, please click HERE.