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Jaguars-Vikings an interesting study


The Jaguars have only played against the Minnesota Vikings once before, and "it wasn't pretty," coach Tom Coughlin recalled of a 50-10 loss in Minnesota late in the 1998 season.

Actually, it was an historic day in Jaguars history, as the Jaguars' clinched their first-ever division title earlier that day when Tennessee lost in Green Bay. But the celebration was short-lived.

"Very noisy; they played much better. They seemed much quicker on their turf. They were able to big-play on us. We turned the ball over," Coughlin offered in the way of his memories.

He might also remember his team's return flight to Jacksonville that night was unable to land due to fog, forcing the Jaguars on to Orlando, from where the team bused back to Alltel Stadium. It was the most difficult of road trips for the Jaguars.

So, they'll try it again this weekend; another December trip to Minnesota, where the Jaguars will battle the Metrodome noise and the big-play talents of Randy Moss and Cris Carter. But this time, neither the Vikings nor the Jaguars have thoughts about winning a division title or making the playoffs.

"We're both 5-8 and we both went into the season with expectations of being a lot better than that. Injuries are tough," Vikings coach Dennis Green said.

"I look at the high team in our division right now, Chicago, and they are a very good football team but they've been fairly healthy, with about one exception. They won a lot of close ballgames. We've been in some games like that, two against them, and we didn't win either one of them," Green added.

It is a lament shared by Coughlin. Injuries and narrow defeats have decimated both teams. In the Vikings' case, they will be without star quarterback Daunte Culpepper the rest of this season due to a knee injury.

In many ways, a study of the Vikings may also apply to the Jaguars. Both teams have significant star players on offense, both teams have major salary cap difficulties, and both teams are in decline.

The Jaguars are admittedly heading into a rebuilding phase. Green, who is attempting to avoid his first losing season in 11 years as Vikings coach, won't use the "R" word.

"I've never used that word 'rebuilding' since I've been here. We've been able to win under any circumstances," Green said.

Sunday will offer an interesting comparison of two teams who, three years ago, represented the elite teams in their respective conferences. Now, they are each suffering the pangs of losing. What path will each team choose for its future?

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