The Jaguars' season has come down to this: They must beat Pittsburgh.
It's the only chance they have of making it to the playoffs. Beat Pittsburgh and the other two AFC teams on the Jaguars' finishing schedule, or the Jaguars' chances of making the playoffs will have likely been exhausted.
Ten wins could do it. The possibility exists the Jaguars could make it into the playoffs on 10 wins, but they must include in that total wins against each of their remaining three AFC opponents. It's a matter of the tie-breakers and conference record is likely to be the number one tie-breaker should the Jaguars face that situation; hopefully, face that situation.
Even if 10 won't get it done and making the playoffs will require 11 wins, beating Pittsburgh is a must. In that case, we're talking about winning-out and that would begin with a win over the Steelers. You see, they must beat Pittsburgh, either way.
So, it has come to this: A one-game season in a nationally-televised game in front of what promises to be their best crowd of the season and against the Jaguars franchise's first true rival. The Jaguars will host the Steelers in a game that will turn the clock back and, hopefully, turn the clock forward, too.
"I'm looking forward to that. I miss playing those guys," Donovin Darius said of the Steelers and next Sunday's big game.
That's where the Jaguars' situation stands today following Sunday's 27-16 loss to the Vikings. The Jaguars have lost five of their last eight games. A season that began 3-0 and with so much promise has been reduced to desperation. This is it, guys.
So what's so bad about that? What's wrong with a big game at home against the number one team in the AFC?
The Jaguars' response to that challenge will tell us all we need to know about this team. It will tell us whether they are good enough to win a late-season game of that importance. It will tell us if they are capable of winning when losing is not an option. What the Jaguars do against the Steelers will give us an indication of what has to be done in the offseason.
"We know it's a must-win game. If we could beat Pittsburgh, that would do so much for our morale," Marcus Stroud said.
Clearly, the Jaguars' morale is at a low point following the loss to the Vikings. Making matters worse, this is a hobbled team. Stroud is playing on a bad knee. Rob Meier suffered a broken fibula on Sunday, further reducing the Jaguars' already-weakened ranks at defensive end.
What does this team have left in the tank? Can they make a final-month push for the playoffs? Can they rally behind a young quarterback who's playing on a bad knee, too?
"A win could cure everything. That's coming," Mike Peterson predicted.
Byron Leftwich was asked to provide perspective. Where did this team stand following its most recent loss? Did Leftwich believe the Jaguars were still alive in the playoff chase, or had they faded to the ranks of also-rans?
"We're capable of winning five straight. The window is getting smaller. We understand that. When our backs have been to the wall, we've found a way. I just believe we'll do that," Leftwich said.
Five in a row may not be required. The situation may not be as grim as it appears. The possibility remains that four wins could do it, but this much is for sure: One of those wins must be against the Steelers.
This is it. This is do or die time.