This is big. For a 3-5 team -- especially for this 3-5 team -- it doesn't get any bigger than this Sunday's game against the Redskins.
Call it reporter's instinct. The feeling is that a win over the Redskins could fix all of the damage created by the Jaguars' four-game losing streak. A win would give this team an immediate morale boost, and if Sunday's crowd is going to be split in its support of the Jaguars and Redskins, a win could also produce a little bit of a mean streak this team really needs; an us-against-the-world mentality would be just what the doctor ordered.
And there's more. With trips ahead to Houston and Dallas, the Jaguars would leave Sunday's game with the feeling recovery is possible. They could begin thinking of taking the AFC South lead heading into December.
All of that good stuff is what a win this Sunday would do for the Jaguars. And don't forget what it would do for the coach's mood.
But the flip side could be devastating. All of a sudden, the trip to Houston would take on a negative feel. With a loss, the fear would be that players would begin thinking about getting the rest of the season over with.
Yeah, call it reporter's instinct, but there were also indications the players were experiencing the same thoughts this week.
"We're still a game out and I'm liking it right now. We have to still believe. Who knows what will happen. There are eight games left," Mark Brunell said.
"I think we're going to win some games. I think this team will turn it around. Soon, we will get this thing headed in the right direction," Brunell added.
A win would do that. A loss would result in the Jaguars' third consecutive year with a five-game losing streak, and we know how the previous two ended.
This is it. It's must-win time.
Here are "10 things" the Jaguars must do to beat the Redskins.
- Block LaVar Arrington--The Redskins linebacker may be the most dominant defensive player in the game. He has the ability to take over a game; terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Jaguars right tackle Todd Fordham is facing an awesome challenge that could make Fordham the most important player on the field for the Jaguars.
- Block Bruce Smith--Rookie left tackle Mike Pearson is facing a sure Hall of Famer who still has some flash to go with his bag of tricks. Pearson is facing a Fordham-like challenge that likewise makes Pearson one of the most important players on the field for the Jaguars. The Jaguars must hold up at the two offensive tackle spots.
- Help the defensive ends--Marco Coleman and Rob Meier have allowed a lot of rushing yardage around their ends and there's no question Steve Spurrier is going to test the Jaguars bookends against Redskins tackles Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels. Those may be mismatches in the Redskins' favor, which means the Jaguars must find a way schematically to assist Coleman and Meier.
- Win field position--Spurrier would love to give this game an old Gator feel, back in front of old Gator fans. But he won't be as comfortable playing that wide-open brand of football if his offense is working with a long field.
- Steal the spotlight--This is the perfect game for something different. Do as Spurrier would do. Steal his thunder with a few gadget plays that would go a long way toward inspiring the crowd to root for the home team.
- Go no-huddle--Brunell is comfortable with it and wants to do it. The Redskins are not an up-tempo team.
- Get fired up--Calm and cool are for teams with lots of talent.
- Make the kicks--Consider the emotional lift it would give the Jaguars if Tim Seder makes his first kick.
- Get the crowd into it--This is the Jaguars' homefield and home fans. Let them know they matter by acknowledging their presence and importance. The Jaguars desperately need to feel the fans' energy.
- Intercept the ball--The Jaguars haven't had a pick since a win over the Jets on Sept. 29. Nothing erodes a quarterback's confidence and his coach's confidence in him like an interception.