Sunday's game between the Jaguars and the Dolphins will be a showcase for what should be a twice-a-year event.
Simply put, the NFL dropped the ball in Florida when it realigned a few years ago. The Florida professional football experience was denied its full potential when the Jaguars and the Dolphins were not put into the same division.
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver wanted it; desperately wanted it. But Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga gave no indication of having that same interest, and the league was much more interested in maintaining a Dolphins-Bills-Jets-Patriots AFC East than in doing something new. Realignment? Not really.
Several thousand Dolphins fans will be on hand at Alltel Stadium this Sunday, and the vast majority of those Dolphins fans are coming up from South Florida, where the Jaguars ticket department has sold as many as 5,000 tickets to South Florida travel agencies.
Of course, interest for the game among Jaguars fans is heightened by the intrastate nature of the game, and the fact that Jacksonville was a Dolphins town before the Jaguars came into existence.
So, for the first time this season, the Jaguars will have close to a full house and the game will be televised locally to all of those fans who can't afford a ticket or aren't physically able to attend. That's a good thing, right? You bet it is.
It's the kind of good thing that should be happening here once a year. And don't kid yourself, the Dolphins could use the same kind of help once a year at Pro Player Stadium. The Dolphins have more than their share of unsold tickets and TV blackouts.
What we're going to see this Sunday is direct evidence that having these teams in the same division would've been good for these two teams and their fans twice a year. It's a game that would've offered travelability to these two teams' fan bases, who enjoy no such travelability in their current divisions. It would've promoted pro football in Florida. It would've filled hotel rooms and restaurants and generated money in Jacksonville and Miami and at stops along the way.
Realignment could've made all of that happen, but it wasn't allowed. This Sunday we'll get an idea of just what kind of mistake that is.
"We want to make sure we do well and let our fans have the upper hand in our stadium," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said earlier this week.
Now, here's "10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Dolphins."
- Have a good line--The Dolphins are undoubtedly going to tease the Jaguars about their "chopping wood" incident. So, have a good line ready to throw back at them.
- Look at the flip card--It would be a good idea to know which one of the Dolphins is Ricky Williams.
- Fred first, then Byron--Everybody wants to see what Byron Leftwich will do against a big-time defense, but it would probably be a good idea to get the Dolphins playing run, first.
- Seize the moment--This is the second of three opportunities for the Jaguars to reclaim their season. They took step one last week against San Diego. With a win against the Dolphins, the Jaguars will have a chance to sweep October with a win at home against Tennessee and breathe life into the new era heading into November.
- Play to your strengths--The Jaguars match up well against the Dolphins; sixth in rush-defense against the sixth-ranked rush-offense.
- Don't be in awe--They lost to Houston, too, and at home.
- Block Jason Taylor--He's the Dolphins' true pass-rush star. He's the guy who makes it happen for the Dolphins defense. Mike Pearson has a big job on his hands. Give him help if necessary.
- Get some turnovers--Miami is a true run-the-ball, time-of-possession team. Turnovers are the arch-enemy of those types of teams.
- Score touchdowns, not field goals--Olindo Mare is the best kicker in the game. Teams that get into field-goal battles against the Dolphins lose.
- Defend your turf--This used to be a Dolphins town. Embrace the concept of territorial rights. The result of this game will hang around for awhile.