Sunday's game in Miami between the Jaguars and the Dolphins could be aptly described as the "Desperation Bowl." Both teams' seasons have reached the point of desperation.
"It gets like a playoff atmosphere. Everybody's trying to get that last wild card," Jaguars quarterback David Garrard said.
The 6-5 Jaguars are facing a rigorous final five weeks of the season. Following Sunday's game against a Dolphins team on a four-game winning streak, the Jaguars will finish with home games against Peyton Manning and the Colts and Tom Brady and the Patriots, and road trips to resurgent Tennessee and wild-card front-runner Kansas City.
What would it take for the Jaguars to make it into the playoffs for the second consecutive year? Win four of their final five? Win all five?
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, of course, won't look past winning just one, the next one.
"The bottom line for us is we're at a one-game-at-a-time approach, like we have been all year, and obviously that one game becomes more critical just because we're getting toward the end of the year. We're sitting here now in December and it's time when the good teams are going to get it done and have a chance to go on, and we want to just play good football and finish out strong," Del Rio said.
This week a year ago, the Steelers were headed toward a loss that would drop their record to 7-5 and, most thought, out of playoff contention. They then went on an eight-game winning streak to claim the Super Bowl title as the AFC's sixth-seeded playoff team.
Will Del Rio attempt to "sell" what the Steelers did to his players?
"I'm not concerned with trying to sell that. The reason they had the run is what you sell. The reason they had the run was they were in a one-game-at-a-time mode," Del Rio said.
The 5-6 Dolphins are in an even more desperate state. The best the Dolphins can do is win-out and hope 10-6 gets them into the playoffs, which it wouldn't have done last season. The 12-4 Jaguars and 11-5 Steelers were the AFC's two wild-card teams and the 10-6 Chiefs missed out on the postseason.
"We are not over here bracket watching," Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said. "We are not worrying about what other teams are doing. If you start worrying about other teams helping you out and doing stuff for you, then you start letting your own stuff slide and we know we can't afford to do that."
Both coaches, Del Rio and Dolphins head coach Nick Saban, found themselves facing rumors this week linking them to the vacant Alabama head coaching job. They each denied interest in the job. Del Rio was emphatic in his denial.
"Let me put it to bed. I'm very happy with the work that we have here in Jacksonville. I love working for Wayne Weaver and I'm not interested," Del Rio said.
All of his interest, obviously, is for Sunday's game against the Dolphins. The last time the Jaguars weren't above .500 this late in the season was in 2004, when the Jaguars were 6-6. They'll be attempting to avoid that same record this Sunday.
"I was fortunate enough to be part of a team that went all the way to the Super Bowl with this kind of approach. The bigger the stage got, the bigger the game got, the more we relied on fundamentals of how we do things. That's how you'll get the consistency you'll need in those crucial moments," Del Rio said.