The Colts are going to win the division title. That's a lock. Whether it's this week, next week or the week after, it's going to happen. The Jaguars, however, can make it feel as though they won the division title. How so?
Ask the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals won the AFC North last season, but it sure didn't feel like it when the Steelers left Cincinnati with a playoff win last January. The Steelers and Bengals split their two games against each other last season, then the Steelers won in Cincinnati in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Any division title flags that fly over Cincinnati sure don't have much starch in them.
The bottom line is that division titles are rather worthless pieces of silver. It's the gold of the playoffs that every team seeks.
I'll paint a scenario for you that'll allow the Jaguars to feel as though they won the division title this season. Here it is: Beat the Colts on Sunday, make it into the playoffs and beat the Colts again, this time, of course, in Indianapolis.
Wanna win the division "title?" That's how you do it, and no one will dispute your claim.
This is the month that defines teams. December is when we find out who the real muscle teams are. The first three months are for the stat boys. Now we find out who can get it done at crunch time.
For those players and teams who play their best when the games count the most, we reserve a special place of respect and admiration. Don't tell me about Tom Brady's stats. Talk to me about his 18-3 record in December.
So just do it now. Don't worry about those two losses to Houston. They require no explanation. Just win these games. This is December. This is the month for champions. You wanna be a champion? Just win now.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Colts.
- Run the ball—It remains the formula for beating the Colts. Dominate time of possession and limit Peyton Manning's play-count. You do that by running the ball down the throat of the NFL's worst run-defense.
- Take it away—The Cowboys and Titans each intercepted Manning twice.
- Be forceful—In this game a year ago, the Jaguars were timid and they got blown out. Enough of that. Championship teams aren't timid.
- Pressure him—You don't have to sack Manning to affect him. In fact, he wants the Jaguars to blitz. It's important that the Jaguars get pressure without blitzing.
- No mistakes—This is December. There have been too many practices for the same mistakes to keep occurring. It's time to play the perfect game.
- Nullify Marvin Harrison—That's what a premier cornerback does against a premier pass-receiver. Rashean Mathis is under the microscope. The Jaguars need for Mathis to win this battle.
- Protect the passer—David Garrard is starting to run too often. He's a passer. Provide him with the pocket he needs.
- Tackle the return man—Does that need to be said? The Colts beat the Jaguars in September with a punt return for a touchdown. That absolutely must not happen this time.
- Get hot—A win over the Colts would do that for the Jaguars.
- Be physical—Maybe this should be number one. The Colts are a finesse team. Hit them early and hit them often.