Just what the Jags need

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This is what you wanted. It's everything you wanted all rolled into one.

You want respect? Here's the game that'll deliver it.

You want prime-time? It doesn't get any more prime than Saturday night in the playoffs. It's the time slot that traditionally delivers the highest ratings of the playoffs.

This has been a season of snubs, beginning last April when the NFL released a schedule that did not include the Jaguars on Monday Night Football. Then, as the Jaguars were pounding out a 12-4 record that stands as the fourth-best in the league, they were snubbed by the media.

"The quietest 12-4 team you will ever see," CBS analyst Steve Tasker said as the final seconds to the Jaguars' 12th win were ticking off.

Makes you angry, doesn't it? You want respect, don't you? You want the world to notice, don't you? Then here it is.

Nothing will earn you respect more fully than a win on national television against the most respected team in the game; a team that is undefeated in January. The Steelers couldn't beat them. The Eagles couldn't beat them. The Panthers couldn't beat them. The Rams couldn't beat them. The Titans couldn't beat them. The Raiders couldn't beat them. Not even the Colts could beat them. Whoa!

What if the Jaguars beat them? You know the answer.

"We like it that way," Jimmy Smith said of the no-respect factor. "It was like that in '96. We're not respected so we have to earn that respect and it starts next Saturday night."

The '96 Jaguars entered the playoffs 9-7. They made it in only because the most accurate field goal kicker in history slipped on the turf and missed a chip-shot field goal attempt in the regular season finale.

Those '96 Jaguars went to Buffalo as a belly laugh; a sideshow act. Then they handed the Bills their first-ever playoff loss at Rich Stadium, which effectively ended the Jim Kelly era. All of a sudden, people stopped laughing.

The Jaguars won in Denver the following week – beat a Broncos team that was number one in the AFC – and the Jaguars immediately became one of the most respected franchises in the NFL. Everyone wanted to know how they had risen to such heights in just their second season.

It can happen that way for this team, too. They have a chance to halt the Patriots' string of playoff wins, and that could send them to Indianapolis, this year's equivalent of the '96 Broncos. There's an almost eerie quality in the pairings similarity.

"We believe in ourselves this year; probably more than we did in '96. We have the confidence going into the playoffs," Smith said.

The Jaguars can use the no-respect factor to their advantage. On what should be known as "Tank Sunday," the Bengals and the Patriots tried to out-tank each other to move into the number four seed which, of course, will play host to the Jaguars. Marvin Lewis and Bill Belichick will tell you they were merely resting their players, but you know differently. They wanted to be the lucky team that plays the Jaguars.

New England is that lucky team and that's good for the Jaguars. In fact, it's exactly what the Jaguars need: a high-profile opponent in a prime-time match-up. It's everything you could want all rolled into one.

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