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Jags' focus on playoffs


The Colts will be trying to stay undefeated. With all due respect to the historical implications of this Sunday's game, Jack Del Rio remains focused on getting his team into the playoffs.

"I have bigger parts of history I'd like to be part of than knocking off an undefeated team. The big thing is we're trying to get into the tournament (playoffs) and this would be win number 10," Del Rio said of this week's Colts-Jaguars matchup at Alltel Stadium.

At 12-0, the Colts are four wins away from becoming the first-ever team to win 16 regular-season games. The Colts would clinch the AFC South title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Jaguars.

The Jaguars are still technically alive in the AFC South race, but even Del Rio admitted his team is chasing a wild-card berth and Del Rio believes it could take 12 wins to do that.

"Ten wins won't do it this year. Eleven may not do it this year," Del Rio said.

At 9-3, the Jaguars lead the wild-card standings and will close the season with games against two-win San Francisco, one-win Houston and three-win Tennessee. Obviously, the Jaguars are in the driver's seat for one of two AFC playoff berths.

Does it matter which wild-card spot the Jaguars win?

"It probably does matter. It depends on your take on it. There's always a chance the fifth seed could host a game. Yeah, it's going to be hard to catch Peyton (Manning). Unless Peyton slips on a patch of ice, it's going to be tough to catch them," Del Rio said.

Slipping on a patch of ice is something Manning is not likely to do. The Colts have not played anything resembling a cold-weather game this year and have only two road games remaining, in Jacksonville and in Seattle.

Considering last season's "major point of emphasis" on the chuck rule that was the catalyst to Manning's record-setting touchdown-passes performance, and the favorability of this year's Colts schedule, Del Rio was asked if he thinks the league favors the Colts.

"I could engage in that discussion but I don't see where that helps our team prepare for this football game," he said.

"As the week goes on, all of that stuff will build," he said of the media hype for Sunday's game. "I look at it as more of an opportunity to win."

Quarterback David Garrard will be Manning's counterpart and the Jaguars hope Garrard will perform as he did in Sunday's 20-14 win in Cleveland. Garrard threw two touchdown passes and had two others dropped. He was more than just an efficient manager of the game; he was the Jaguars' offensive catalyst.

"I'm pleased with the poise he's playing with. It was loud there; the fans were into it. It was a tough environment; it was cold," Del Rio said.

Garrard's performance in the second half against the Browns, leading the Jaguars back from a 14-3 halftime deficit, raises this obvious question: Can he become a big-time passer?

"He's got an opportunity to play big-time for us right now. We'll see how it goes. He's getting an (opportunity) now to lead this football team. Everyone's pulling for the Jaguars. As the team wins, individual things come," Del Rio said.

Garrard, of course, has replaced starting quarterback Byron Leftwich, who sustained a broken ankle in Arizona two weeks ago. It's thought that a top performance by Garrard could interest another team in trading for the fourth-year pro.

Meanwhile, cornerback Rashean Mathis has returned from Cleveland after receiving medical attention there for a broken finger and an open wound on that finger. He did not fly back with the team after the game because the Jaguars wanted to address infection concerns.

"It wasn't the break that was the problem. That's relatively minor," Del Rio said.

Mathis will play with a protective appliance on his right hand this Sunday. Mathis was a major player in holding Manning to 122 yards passing, no touchdowns and a 44.0 passer rating in the Colts' 10-3 win over the Jaguars in week three, in the RCA Dome.

Del Rio was asked why the Jaguars seem to play the Colts so tough. The Jaguars have won two of the last four games between the two teams.

"I think we're a tough team," Del Rio said.

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