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Jaguars in do-or-die struggle


If they lose another game this season, it will be written of the Jaguars that they missed their turn, which is a way of saying the Jaguars will have not taken advantage of their window of opportunity to make the Super Bowl.

A burgeoning salary cap is expected to cost this team another turn at the top next season. This is it; seven games that will decide how history will record this first era in Jaguars history.

Any one of those seven games could keep the Jaguars out of the playoffs. They need to win them all. At least that much is "crystal clear," as coach Tom Coughlin is fond of saying.

"It's always doable," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said of the Jaguars' prospects of winning them all and delivering on their "promise" to make it to the Super Bowl. Yes, the season began with so much promise. When did it go wrong for this team?

"It seems like it was the day Leon (Searcy) went down. Everything was going fine until Leon went down. Then it was a domino effect," Smith said of the quadriceps injury Searcy suffered in the first full-pads practice of training camp.

That was July, and this is November, when teams with postseason aspirations begin recognizing the urgency of each game. For the Jaguars, the urgency is "crystal clear." They must beat the 3-7 Seahawks this Sunday.

"We'll try to make a run at the playoffs, if not, we'll try to do it next year. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep this team together," Smith said.

A year ago, the Jaguars were 9-1 heading into their week-11 game against New Orleans. They were healthy and headed for AFC homefield advantage for the playoffs. It was their year, until a 14-10 lead at halftime of the AFC title game disintegrated into a 33-14 loss. Did they miss their turn?

"Yeah, we missed our turn. We've been missing our turn ever since '96. The Vikings missed their turn in '98, and now look at them. Look at '96. At midseason we had no chance. It just goes to show you that you never know what's going to happen," Smith said.

They'd like to think they can make a late-season run, as they did in '96, when seven consecutive victories carried them to an AFC title game that was decided by a late-game interception in the end zone, as the Jaguars were driving for the game-tying touchdown.

As in '96, the Jaguars have a favorable late-season schedule. The big difference is that team was just beginning to open its window of opportunity. This team is attempting to keep it from being slammed shut.

Will Sunday be the day, or will the Jaguars buy themselves another week of life?

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