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Open Locker Room: "Unbelievable opportunity"


JACKSONVILLE – The bye is in the immediate past, and the future is now.

For the Jaguars, that future is full of possibility.

And while the possibility has come about under somewhat unusual circumstances, that doesn't change the fact that the Jaguars enter the final nine games of the season with a very real chance at an AFC South championship – and the accompanying playoff appearance.

That wasn't the primary topic of conversation around EverBank Field Wednesday as the Jaguars prepared to play the New York Jets Sunday.

Still, it was a topic, and one the Jaguars acknowledged.

"It seems like they're just handing us the AFC South," defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said as the Jaguars (2-5) prepared to play the Jets (4-3) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday at 1 p.m.

"For us, we have to take advantage of it. We have to continue to do what we do, continue to play our ball and continue to get better as a team."

The Jaguars, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 34-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills the week before last week's bye, are a half-game behind the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts (3-5) and Houston Texans (3-5). The Colts lost to the Carolina Panthers, 29-26, in overtime Monday.

Half of the division spent the early part of the week undergoing dramatic change. The Colts on Tuesday fired Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton, a move that came the same day the fourth-place team in the South – Tennessee – fired Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt and named former Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey interim head coach.

But while Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley mentioned the team's status in the division when speaking to the team Wednesday morning, he emphasized not yet focusing on that big-picture scenario.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said, "but I don't think we look at it any differently than if we were 0-7 or 7-0. We treat this game the same way. I think that's the culture and the mindset everybody has.

"It's cool to be fortunate enough to 2-5 and in the talk, but the guys do a good job of making sure this (the Jets game) is our championship game just like it is every other week. I don't there's a whole lot of reason to talk about it.

"Everybody knows it's there. Everybody realizes what's going and the big picture."

Said Marks, "To Gus, it's never about outside influence. It's always inside-out first: go out and make the best of your opportunity. Gus is always going to be, 'Get better as a team, get better as an individual and play together.' It's not something we should focus on. We just have to go out there and win."

Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said he didn't realize the team was just a half-game out of first place until it was mentioned to him in the locker room shortly before practice Wednesday.

"The division is a little bit up for grabs, but our approach won't change now," Posluszny said. "If anything, we came out of the bye week and said, 'Hey, this is what we did well. This is what we need to work on. Let's continue to do things with a sense of urgency and still treat it one week at a time.' "

Also around the Jaguars:

*Starting left guard Zane Beadles (foot) will not practice Wednesday, but he remains hopeful he will play Sunday. "We'll start doing some stuff on it (Wednesday) and see where we're at from there," said Beadles, who left the Buffalo game with the injury. "I don't know for sure, but I plan on being out there Sunday. It's coming along. I haven't had the opportunity to test it out yet, but we'll do that today and go from there." …

*Rookie safety James Sample, who practiced limited Monday after missing the last three games before the bye with a shoulder injury, said he is feeling good and remains day-to-day. "Hopefully, I'll be able to play this week," he said early Wednesday afternoon. "It's kind of frustrating because things were going well, then you had this minor setback and what you thought was going to be a week or two injury turned into almost a four-week injury … You just have to go through it and learn from it." …

*Wide receiver Rashad Greene is expected to practice Wednesday for the first time since being given the injured reserve-designated-to-return designation in September. He will eligible to return against Tennessee November 19 and said Wednesday he fully expects to play in that game. "I'm good to go," Greene said. "I have no doubt." …

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