They were recovering from a gut-wrenching loss to the Colts on Christmas week a year ago, just as the Jaguars are on Christmas week this year. Their playoff hopes have been reduced to win and get help, just as they were a year ago, too. There is, however, a very big difference between last year and this year, as the Jaguars head into the final two games of their season.
"Looks like we're going to have a nice crowd this weekend," coach Jack Del Rio said in beginning his preview of Sunday's regular-season home finale, which will make the 2010 season a clean sweep of locally-televised home games. Last season, of course, seven of the Jaguars' eight home games were blacked out.
As the Jaguars head into what will possibly be the final two games of their season, there is one unmistakable fact about the Jaguars franchise: It is much healthier on Christmas week this year than it was on Christmas week a year ago.
"The year started with the EverBank story and having a name on our stadium. That gave us a lift. The city responded and the team benefitted from having that kind of environment to play in. There has been some exciting football played at our stadium this year," Del Rio said.
"We're another year into the process we started last year. We never wanted to call it rebuilding because of the negative connotation. We're two years into it and we've established some things culture-wise. It gives us a new feel," Del Rio added.
This week a year ago, the franchise's future was in doubt. A year later, it is much more secure.
A home season of exciting finishes – Denver, Indianapolis, Houston, Cleveland and Oakland – will do that for a franchise. Can the Jaguars add one more home victory, to make it a 6-2 home campaign in 2010 and 11-5 over the last two years? Can the Jaguars even go one better than that: Can they reward their fans with a home playoff game?
"We need a little help. It doesn't have to come from Oakland. It can come from Tennessee, but that's after we do what we need to do," Del Rio said.
There are a few different scenarios that would claim the AFC South title and a home playoff game for the Jaguars. Here's one: Beat the Redskins this week and get a Raiders win over the Colts in one of Sunday's late-afternoon games, then go to Houston on the final weekend of the season with another win-and-in opportunity.
Are the Jaguars recovered from their loss in Indianapolis, when the Jaguars could've clinched the division title with a win but lost, 34-24?
"It might've taken 36 hours. It might've taken a few more hours. We all feel good about getting back to work. We are human beings. We did experience disappointment," Del Rio said.
"We have plenty left in this locker room to finish these games. We'll live with the results," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "I love our chances. Our mindset is to get this win and keep moving."