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Jaguars use sweep as motivation


The Jaguars have been reduced to small victories in what remains of this season, and they could claim one this Thursday with a season sweep of the playoff-hopeful Indianapolis Colts.

Oh, what irony. In their best of seasons, the playoff years of 2007 and '05, the Jaguars were swept by the Colts. Now, in the worst of times, the Jaguars have a chance to sweep the Colts for the first time ever and maybe even knock them out of the playoffs.

"We'll be ready for them. We match up good with the Colts," Jaguars linebacker Clint Ingram said. "It would be a good confidence booster. It's always good to get back to what you're used to doing."

At 5-9, the Jaguars have experienced unaccustomed losing this season. Six wins would be a far cry from the team's expectations, but it would leave the Jaguars at 3-3 in the AFC South and help the team save face in an otherwise disappointing season.

The two teams play at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in a Thursday night, NFL Network special. When it was scheduled, it was a game most expected might decide the AFC South title. That won't be the case but it's a game that'll still have drama. The 10-4 Colts have yet to clinch a playoff berth and they'll finish the season at home against Tennessee.

Indianapolis is playing considerably better than it was when the Jaguars scored a 23-21 win on Sept. 21. Quarterback Peyton Manning was in an early-season funk and has since turned into the dominant passer he always has been.

Fred Taylor led the Jaguars to that win with 121 yards rushing. It will be Taylor's only 100-yard game of the season, since Taylor was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list last week.

The Jaguars won't have Taylor at their disposal on Thursday, but the Jaguars will have something they hadn't had until finding it most recently in a 20-16 win over the Green Bay Packers: a deep passing game.

Dennis Northcutt replaced Matt Jones in the starting lineup at wide receiver and Northcutt caught five passes for 127 yards and one touchdown. His 41-yard reception is the only catch of 40 or more yards by a Jaguars receiver this season, and Northcutt also added catches of 30 and 35 yards against the Packers.

Would it have made a difference had the Jaguars found Northcutt's long-ball ability earlier in the season?

"It would've helped," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "We're starting to run the ball a little better. We're starting to wear teams down."

"That's a coach's decision. I've played long enough to know this is a business," Northcutt said on Monday when asked about his limited playing time this season. "They felt they didn't want me to play that much this year and that's what I did. You didn't hear a word out of me.

"Of course I was frustrated. I wanted to help but I didn't want to be a distraction. I wanted to do what I could to help the team," the veteran wide receiver added.

Northcutt created separation that caught quarterback David Garrard's eye and caused Northcutt to become Garrard's go-to receiver. Garrard is likely to look Northcutt's way this Thursday.

"I'm always motivated to play against my former team," linebacker Mike Peterson said. Peterson replaced Daryl Smith in the second half on Sunday, after Smith sustained a groin injury. "Sweeping a top team like the Colts would be something to hang our hats on," Peterson added.

Yeah, the Jaguars' season is down to its final two breaths, but they are not mail-it-in type games. The playoffs are likely to be at stake in each, with the Jaguars traveling to Baltimore for a regular-season finale the Ravens may have to win to earn a playoff berth.

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