David Garrard is determined to keep his new-found success in proper perspective. Nearly a year after a late-season collapse made it appear Garrard's days as a starting quarterback were over, he is being mentioned as a Pro Bowl candidate.
"I think it's pretty cool," Garrard said of his name being mentioned in the same company with Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer as the next wave of top AFC quarterbacks. "Like I said, there are games left. All of that can go by the wayside. Start losing games and miss the playoffs and watch who's talking about you."
Garrard and the Jaguars (8-3) will attempt to take their biggest step toward a playoff berth this Sunday in Indianapolis, where they'll square off with the reigning Super Bowl-champion Colts (9-2). It's a rematch of the week-seven game the Colts won, 29-7, in which Garrard left the game in the second quarter with a high-ankle sprain.
"This team is definitely ready for the game. We were ready the last time. We just had some unfortunate things happen," Garrard said.
The Jaguars are ready to take their last-chance swing at the AFC South Division title. This is it. Win or else. In fact, even a win might not do it.
"Can we win the division without winning this game? No," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.
To win the division, the Jaguars, sensibly, need to win their remaining five games and have the Colts lose at least one more. All of that, of course, is for another week. The first order of business is enough for this week.
"We're entering December with an opportunity to gain a share of first place," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars were also a game behind the Colts the first time the two teams played, but Del Rio said the situation is "far different" than it was then. "We've been resilient over the last five weeks since we played them. We've had 39 games missed by starters (this season). We've had to be resilient and we've done that," Del Rio said.
As a result of the injury Garrard sustained against the Colts, the Jaguars played three games without their starting quarterback and won two of those. Most recently, the Jaguars won without starting linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Rashean Mathis.
Here's something that's the same as the last time the two teams faced each other: The Colts are coming off an extended rest. This time, the Colts will be on a 10-day rest. For the first game, they were coming off a bye week.
"Coincidence, question mark," Del Rio said. "I know in Dallas we always thought it was an advantage (coming off a Thanksgiving Day game). We have to find a way to negate that."
Garrard has been the great equalizer for the Jaguars this season. Fans and media alike have marveled at his poise and level of comfort in running the offense this season.
"When the game plan comes, I just have a great feel for it. I think it's a combination of not looking over my shoulder, being in the league six years, and the ups and downs," he said of having achieved his level of comfort.
"I'm trying to play the position to the point (teammates) don't have to feel worried about anything. I feel I'm at the point that I can win some games," Garrard added.
Garrard has a rejuvenated Fred Taylor at running back. In the win over Buffalo, Taylor reached the 100-yard mark for the first time this season and reeled off a 50-yard touchdown run on his third carry of the game.
"That was kind of embarrassing," Taylor said of the stadium public address announcement that Taylor had cracked the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. "I guess it enforces that I really do have something left in the tank."
Taylor has enough left in his tank that he wouldn't mind putting some more miles on his legs, but he remains accepting of his role of sharing time with Maurice Jones-Drew.
"I don't mind. We're winning games. I don't want to start (anything). I'm a running back. Naturally, I want the ball. At the same time, we have a certain chemistry going and as long as we're winning, I'm fine with that," Taylor said.
Against the Colts on Sunday, it's likely Taylor and Jones-Drew will each get an increased workload. Running the ball, controlling the clock and keeping Peyton Manning off the field has long been the formula for beating the Colts. That much remains the same.