The Jaguars are taking on the appearance of a team of destiny. Do you remember the 1996 "Cinderella Jags," and do you remember how everything just seemed to fall their way during their magical run to the AFC title game? Well, it's kind of going that way for this team, too.
A trip to Pittsburgh or Cleveland would seem to be the Jaguars' likely destination for the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh or Cleveland instead of San Diego? Isn't that the cruelest of misfortune?
No way, baby. Pittsburgh or Cleveland would be just fine. Take a look at those two teams.
Pittsburgh is without its best defensive lineman, Aaron Smith, and its star running back, Willie Parker, for the rest of the season. Left tackle Marvel Smith may also have to shut it down for the year. The Steelers defense has fallen apart, the running game is likely to have been fractured along with Parker's right leg, and the Steelers' offensive line has turned Ben Roethlisberger into a human bullseye.
Cleveland will be the Jaguars' destination if the Steelers lose in Baltimore and the Browns win their final two games. Those Browns are scary, you say?
Well, once upon a time they were. Derek Anderson was Bradyesque earlier in the season and was being hailed as the hottest new quarterback in the league. Anderson, however, has cooled off with the December weather. He's thrown six touchdown passes and five interceptions in the last five games, and his passer rating has fallen to a rather pedestrian, middle-of-the-league 85.8.
The Steelers and Browns defenses are arriving at the same point from different directions. The Steelers defense has been number one in the league most of the season and only recently has found it difficult to stop anybody. The Browns defense has been bad all year. It is, currently, dead last in the league.
A trip to Pittsburgh or Cleveland in January instead of a weekend in San Diego? You betcha, if the goal is to advance in the playoffs. San Diego is one of the hottest teams in the league and it appears Norv Turner has finally come to his senses and is putting the ball in LaDainian Tomlinson's hands.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Raiders and clinch the number five seed for the AFC playoffs.
- Avoid turnovers—This is especially important in this game because the only way the Jaguars can lose to the Raiders is by turning it over.
- Get in, get out—A quick start and a big lead might allow Jack Del Rio to begin resting his starters.
- Be careful—David Garrard has been flirting with interceptions in recent weeks. This would be a good time to get back to a safer approach in the passing game.
- Dress casually—A pair of khakis, button-down Oxford shirt and loafers would do nicely for this Sunday's postgame. That's the right attitude.
- Stop the run—The Raiders run the ball pretty well.
- Run the ball—Only Miami is worse against the run.
- Challenge their resolve—How could a 4-10 team have any?
- Bid farewell—To Jacksonville Municipal Stadium because, after this one, they're all gonna be on the road.
- Enjoy the weather—It won't be like that in Pittsburgh or Cleveland.
- Think of one more thing—Because I can't.