Jack Del Rio's proclamation that his team's goal to win the AFC South title was largely regarded as coachspeak. That was early last spring. Should his Jaguars win on Monday night, the football world will have no choice but to regard the Jaguars as serious division title contenders.
Del Rio has termed his team's game against the Tennessee Titans as "hugely important for us."
So what's so big about it? Here's what's so big about it:
- The four teams in the AFC South each enter this weekend tied at 3-2. The Colts travel to Washington and the Texans host the Chiefs. There's an outside chance the winner of Monday's game could find itself in sole possession of first place.
- In a division as evenly balanced as the AFC South appears to be, you don't dare lose a division game at home.
- Following Monday's game, half of the Jaguars' home schedule will be complete. They will play their next two games on the road, at Kansas City and at Dallas, before their bye week.
- In the team's continued efforts to please their fans and sell tickets, it sure would help curry the fans' favor by avenging a 1999 AFC title game loss to the Titans that still haunts the franchise.
"It seems the fans that were haunted by '99 continue to come out. It doesn't matter how many times we've actually beaten them since then, we just know one more will help ease the pain a little bit, so we'll see what we can do," Del Rio said.
No coach has haunted the Jaguars as Titans coach Jeff Fisher has. He has seemingly always found a way to break the Jaguars' hearts when the team was on the verge of something good. He's been the winning coach in five of the last seven meetings between the two teams, and it was a win over the Jaguars in 2006 that began a three-game skid that kept the Jaguars from making it into the postseason.
Following that upset win in the '99 AFC title game, Fisher infamously referred to what was then named Alltel Stadium as one of his team's home fields. This week, reporters jokingly asked Fisher if he was aware that one of his home fields now has a new name, EverBank Field.
"I noticed that there was a change. That's good for the organization," he said.
This game is no less important for the Titans, who will embark on an especially rugged stretch of schedule following Monday's game: Eagles, at Chargers, at Dolphins.
"I think every game is important. Certainly, this is our first division game and I don't have to tell you how the division's stacked up right now, so it takes on a significant importance. I think it's going to be a great ballgame," Fisher said.
His team, as usually is the case, is led by its rushing attack. Chris Johnson is the league's second-leading rusher with 485 yards and the Titans are sixth in the league in rush-offense. The Jaguars are fourth in rushing and are similar to the Titans in style and philosophy.
"I think both offenses are surrounded by their run games and the play-action pass is a big part of it, and the quarterback's ability to convert third downs is a key concept and is very important to both offenses. Defensively, you want to prevent the big play and stop the run and get the ball back for your offense. Jacksonville has always had great special teams," Fisher said in capsule analysis.
"If you look back over the history of the last six matchups, the team with the most rushing yards won the game," Fisher added.
That's all the analysis this game would seem to need.