History tells us this is a big game. Yeah, they're all big, but history says this one is bigger than the others.
Winning this game has often been a portend of good things to come, while a loss in this game has usually been a harbinger of bad days ahead. Go back all the way to 1995, when the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns. Shortly after the expansion Jaguars scored a major upset win in Cleveland, it was announced the Browns were leaving Cleveland for Baltimore. How's that for a harbinger?
The Jaguars won in Baltimore for four consecutive years (1996-99), and the Jaguars made the playoffs in each of those four years. The Ravens didn't.
In the 2000 and '01 seasons, the Ravens won this game. They won the Super Bowl in '00 and made the playoffs in '01. The Jaguars suffered two losing seasons.
There you have it. Win and make the playoffs; lose and miss the playoffs.
Now, here's 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Ravens in Baltimore this Sunday.
- Listen to the coach--When Tom Coughlin says the Ravens are going to run the ball, his players should listen. Last week, they didn't. After seeing what a used-up Eddie George did to the Jaguars, how many times do you think Jamal Lewis is going to get the ball?
- Have two gameplans--One for the Ravens with Ray Lewis and one for the Ravens without him. The Ravens are not the same team without him.
- Max protect--Whatever it takes, the Ravens must not be allowed to rough up Mark Brunell.
- Put the onus on Taylor--Brunell did not play well for two weeks following his concussion last season. So increase Fred Taylor's workload.
- Throw short--Get the ball out of Brunell's hand as quickly as possible. Coming off a concussion and with a rookie in his first pro start at left tackle, standing in the pocket may be a difficult thing for Brunell.
- Be creative--The personnel on defense is beginning to shrink. Mirrors may be necessary.
- Challenge the receivers--The Ravens don't have a world-class corps of wide receivers. The Jaguars can't afford to play catch and tackle.
- Be patient--The Ravens don't have a lights-out offense. Let the game unfold.
- Check the schedule--The Ravens host the Steelers the following week in the first AFC North showdown game of the year. Might the Jaguars catch the Ravens looking ahead?
- Feel it in the air--It's late October and the leaves are beginning to fall in the Northeast. It's football season. Go ahead, fall in love.