Quarterback David Garrard and kicker Josh Scobee may return to action this week, further steeling the Jaguars for a stretch run against one of the toughest finishing schedules among the league's playoff contenders.
"We'll see how practice goes. We assume he'll be better this week," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said of Garrard, who has missed three consecutive games since sustaining a high-ankle sprain on Oct. 22. Garrard told reporters last week that he would "definitely be able to play next week."
Meanwhile, Scobee has been out of action since the second game of the season, after sustaining a quad injury in pregame warm-ups for the season-opener. John Carney was signed to replace Scobee and Carney has handled all of the kicking since the second game of the season, but Scobee was kept on the active roster and would appear to be nearing a return.
"He practiced last week and we'll see how he goes through practice this week. I do think he's getting closer to being an option for us," Del Rio said on Monday.
Scobee kicked in pregame warm-ups in Tennessee on Sunday but was not made active for the game. Carney did the kicking but Del Rio decided against what would've been a 43-yard field goal attempt and had holder Adam Podlesh attempted a fake-field goal run that failed. Del Rio confirmed on Monday that a strong wind in Carney's face was the reason for the fake. Scobee has a significantly stronger leg than Carney.
Del Rio declined to answer a question that suggested Scobee's absence is the reason the Jaguars lead the league in fourth-down conversion attempts. The Jaguars converted three of five fourth-down tries in their 28-13 win over the Titans on Sunday.
"We just do the things we think give our team the best opportunity to win," Del Rio said.
Most of Del Rio's decisions have been the right ones this season, as the Jaguars find themselves at 6-3 and tied with the Titans for the fourth-best record in the AFC. This past weekend, everything seemed to go the Jaguars' way:
• The Colts lost in San Diego, dropping the Colts to 7-2 and giving the Jaguars renewed hope of contending for the AFC South title.
• Cleveland lost in Pittsburgh, dropping the Browns a game behind the Jaguars in the wild-card race and limiting the wild-card candidates to one from the AFC North.
"I'm a fan of football. Yeah, it's fun to watch," Del Rio said when asked about scoreboard-watching and keeping track of the playoff race variables. "The coach part of me understands the focus must be on the preparation for the next opportunity."
The next opportunity to advance the Jaguars' bid for a playoff berth will be against San Diego this Sunday at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. That game will be followed by a visit from wild-card hopeful Buffalo, and then the Jaguars travel to Indianapolis. They are three games that will conclude the third quarter of the Jaguars schedule, which would seem to be the swing portion of the schedule.
"I think, right now, our football team has shown it has some fight. We do some things very well and we want to build on those things and be stronger as the regular season finishes. I talk all the time about being a smart and tough football team. Two things we talk about are not being penalized and not turning the ball over. We're doing a pretty good job of playing smart and tough," Del Rio said.