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Jags have reached critical time


The Jaguars' fate this season will be determined over the next five weeks. Too strong a statement? Well, permit this explanation and see what you think.

At 3-3, the Jaguars don't have a lot of wiggle room. Yeah, the AFC is bunched up pretty good and this could be a season when 9-7 gets a team into the playoffs but, out of respect for tradition, let's stick with the time-honored 10-6 playoff standard.

What that simply means is at some point in their remaining 10 games the Jaguars will have to get on a roll; they will have to put together a significant winning streak of some sort; say, five in a row or six out of seven, seven out of nine, etc.

All right, let's take a look at the Jags' schedule. What do we see? Well, let's start with the next three, which are against three teams with a combined two victories. Hey, I'm not suggesting that any of those games – two of them are on the road – are going to be cakewalks, but if you consider yourself to be a playoff-caliber team, then this would seem to be the point in your schedule that you start building toward a postseason crescendo.

Now what do we see after the next three games? Consecutive home games, huh? You betcha.

Ladies and gentlemen, if that isn't a formula for getting on a roll, then I've never seen one. This is it. This is when it has to start. Win one, lose one isn't going to get it done. That luxury was spent on the first six weeks of the season. Now it's time to just win, baby, win.

It starts with Cleveland this Sunday at "The Jack." The 2-4 Browns are coming off a tough loss at Washington. They trail the Steelers in the AFC North by three games and they know their season is on the line in Jacksonville. When you've already lost four and you're looking at games remaining at Buffalo, at Tennessee, at Philadelphia and at Pittsburgh, you know you're already down to your last breaths.

The Browns will be a desperate foe this week. The Jaguars have to be prepared to play a Pittsburgh-like physical game. This is a game the Jaguars must win to kick-start their run for the postseason.

Cleveland's problems are on offense. The Browns haven't run it or thrown it very well and that's a bad combination, but don't be misled by the Browns' league rankings. They have a quarterback who can get streaky hot. They have receivers with big-play potential and a running back who can pound out the first downs. Don't forget that the Browns began this season as an AFC North favorite.

The Jaguars' numbers aren't gonna knock anybody's socks off, either. The Jags are 21st on offense, 24th on defense and 29th in sacks per pass play.

That last number is the one that has to change. Change it and they'll change everything. When they start sacking the quarterback, the Jags will get off the field more on third down, which will cause the yards they allow on defense to decline and allow time of possession on offense to increase, and everybody knows, of course, that time is yards.

Hey, I hate to rush the young lads, but it's about time for Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves to begin strutting their pass-rush stuff. They were drafted to be difference-makers on defense and we have reached that point in the season when the difference between postseason contenders and also-rans will become evident.

So, what do you think? Too strong a statement?

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