You could call it the "Injury Bowl."
The Jaguars and Tampa Bay Bucs will meet at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon, in a game in which both teams will have to overcome significant losses to injury.
"I'm happy to introduce our injury list. We have Michael Pittman at running back. He, for sure, won't play. Michael Clayton, our receiver, and Alex Smith, our tight end, have ankle injuries," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said in joking with reporters earlier this week.
The big injury for the Jaguars, of course, is the loss of starting quarterback David Garrard, out possibly for a month with a high-ankle sprain. Garrard was on crutches this week after sustaining the injury early in the second quarter of the Jaguars' loss to the Colts on Monday night.
That's where Gruden has an advantage: The Bucs' starting quarterback, Jeff Garcia, is healthy and continues to play at a high level. He's the league's third-rated passer (106.2) and is one of only two quarterbacks in the league who hasn't thrown an interception. Garrard is the other one.
"He's been really good. A lot of people tend to forget he was a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback and he comes in here with a lot of great history in the league and he is one of the great ball security guys that play in this league, and he's really been an uplifting energy source and a playmaker for the football team. He's a difference-maker for us," Gruden said of Garcia.
Quinn Gray will be in his first-ever pro start. The Jaguars won't be counting on Gray to be a difference-maker. They want him only to perform adequately in a role that has been reduced especially for him. Gray played poorly in relief of Garrard against the Colts.
"We should be better at Quinn being more comfortable in the huddle, leading the team, at us building a plan around what Quinn's strengths are and some of the things maybe he's not as comfortable with or doesn't like in the plan; we're able to tailor and take those out," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "As a football team, I think we understand right now the challenge in front of us, that we need to rally around Quinn and do the best we can to give ourselves a chance."
At 4-2, the Jaguars will play road games each of the next three Sundays. The hopes of being a late-season playoff contender are, obviously, at stake.
The Bucs, 4-3, also entertain hope of being a playoff contender, and that means this is a game they can't afford to lose.
"We've been pretty good this year, period," Gruden said. "We're playing better than we had last year and really playing better than we have the last couple of years. We had a game get away from us last week but we've played particularly well at home."
The Jaguars have won their two road games so far this season but, of course, that was with Garrard at quarterback.
"We're certainly facing adversity. I think in adverse situations a man's true character does show through and I like the way our guys have responded so far in the year. This is a big challenge coming up, so I'm counting on some of that character to show through for us," Del Rio said.