You have to love a game like this. Even though it's between two teams without winning records, this Sunday's game in Cleveland between the Jaguars and Browns isn't just another play-out-the-string, late-season yawner. This one should have some bite to it.
Back on Sept. 30 in Jacksonville, the Browns had it all their way. They desecrated the Jaguars' midfield logo. Their rookie defensive tackle, Gerard Warren, knocked Mark Brunell out of the game on the Jaguars' first play from scrimmage, resulting in a concussion for Brunell and a $35,000 fine for Warren.
Then, the action heated up.
Jaguars linebacker Kevin Hardy stepped on Browns quarterback Tim Couch's hand, which resulted in a $10,000 fine for Hardy.
Warren walked on the back of Jaguars wide receiver Sean Dawkins' lower leg, causing Dawkins to cringe in pain then confront Warren and draw a costly taunting penalty. Dawkins was fined $5,000 for taunting, as was teammate Damon Jones for an earlier taunting penalty.
Following the game, a stunning upset win by the Browns, Cleveland cornerback Corey Fuller verbally accosted Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin as the teams left the field. Fuller chided Coughlin in an obscenity-laced tirade that was prompted by remarks Coughlin had made to his team a week earlier, that the Jaguars were 2-0 and on their way to 3-0.
OK, here it is, the rematch, which just so happens to be the final AFC Central game the Jaguars will ever play. Sunday will be the Jaguars' chance to avenge the manner with which the Browns began the Jaguars' downfall this season.
The Jaguars' motivation this week is purely personal. They can do to the Browns what the Browns did to them. A Jaguars win will all but eliminate the 6-6 Browns from playoff contention. In fact, with a win in Cleveland Sunday, the Jaguars will have taken a major step toward finishing ahead of the Browns in the final AFC Central standings. If you haven't already noticed, Cleveland's final three games are at Green Bay, at Tennessee and at Pittsburgh.
We've come to learn in recent weeks the degree of pride the Jaguars have for their reputations as professionals. They have not quit, not even in a three-game stretch of schedule against Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Yes, the Jaguars have distinguished themselves as players who care very deeply about their personal dignity.
Now, we're going to find out how much the dignity of the Jaguars franchise means to them. What is their sense of team? To what degree were they offended by the Browns' disrespect on Sept. 30?
The Jaguars will answer those questions with the intensity of their performance in Cleveland this Sunday.