The second half of what was a season of high expectations begins in Detroit on Sunday for the Jaguars. Any chance the Jags have for a revival depends on beating the winless Lions.
The 3-5 Jaguars will confront a daunting scenario in Ford Field. The Jags will attempt to avoid becoming the first team in NFL history to lose to 0-8 teams in consecutive games.
Last Sunday's 21-19 loss in Cincinnati kicked off a tumultuous week for the Jaguars, who saw their starting middle linebacker sent home on Wednesday in what was one of several disciplinary measures by head coach Jack Del Rio. Clearly, Del Rio doesn't want his team to go quietly into the night; it's too early in the season for that.
"You're talking about the best players and coaches in the world and those little things separate winners from losers. We just need to do more of those little things right. We'll keep pushing on," Del Rio said.
The little things that have sent the Jaguars into a two-game spiral include some big things, too. The Jaguars' run-defense has fallen to 20th in the league, while their rush-offense has dropped to number 17.
Run the ball/stop the run has long been the Jaguars' calling card under Del Rio, but not this season. Running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have combined for 100 yards rushing only twice this season, and though you would expect that to change against a Lions defense that is 31st in the league against the run, the Jaguars didn't fare well the past two weeks against the Browns and Bengals, two of the worst rush-defenses in the league.
The Jaguars need to put all of that behind them and start anew. That's the sales pitch for the start of the second half of the season. The Jaguars began the season with two losses. They need to reverse that trend on Sunday.
"We get a chance to find out whether or not they're listening the way they need to, but they're definitely hearing what they need to hear," Del Rio said of his players, who heard some very stern and attention-getting messages this week. "There are certain things that I believe in that I've been impressing upon them very strongly."
The Jaguars will host Tennessee and Minnesota in games immediately following Sunday's game in Detroit, so the chance still exists that the Jaguars could get over .500 heading into the final month of the season.
"We expect to be better. Expectations don't really mean a whole lot. Perception doesn't mean a whole lot. Are you doing the things that give you a chance? If you do them well and do them with everything you have, then you'll have a chance, you'll be successful," Del Rio said.
Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky has been ruled "out" for Sunday due to a thumb injury on his throwing hand. Speculation is that he'll be replaced by Daunte Culpepper, who signed with the Lions earlier this week.
"We're not sure what they're going to do," Del Rio said. "They're going to try and keep that a secret. We're going to get ready to play their offense. I think it would be impossible to install a completely new offense and have 11 guys be able to function at a high level, so whoever is playing quarterback is going to come in and do what they've been doing and we'll be prepared."
The Lions are 31st in the league in rushing. Their only true weapon on offense is their 2007 first-round pick, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who leads the Lions with 37 catches for 682 yards and six touchdowns.
This is it; a chance to make a final charge.