Opportunity knocking

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If you listen closely, you might hear the faint sound of a knock on the door. It's the sound of opportunity knocking.

Here we go with the respect thing, again. You want it? Come and get it.

We talked about this a lot last year, as the Jaguars blazed to a 12-4 record that was all but dismissed by the national media as the product of circumstance and an easy second-half schedule. Jaguars fans who thought the team was being disrespected complained bitterly. The problem was that late in the season, when the eye of the national media was watching, the Jaguars played their worst football.

The eye of the national media was watching closely when the undefeated Colts came to town in early December. The result was a stampede.

What followed were games against San Francisco, Houston and Tennessee, a trio of teams that were competing for the top spots in the 2006 draft. You don't get respect by beating those kinds of teams.

The opportunity for national respect next knocked in the playoffs, when New England was the opponent. That's the kind of game that gets you respect. We know how that ended.

Here's the good news: The Jaguars didn't have to wait long this season for a chance to win national respect. They can do right away, this Sunday, in their season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

This one is everything the Jaguars could want. It's a national TV game and it's at Alltel Stadium. The eye of the nation will be on Jacksonville this Sunday, and for that Jaguars fans have Terrell Owens to thank.

Owens' notoriety has made this all possible. The national TV camera will be in Jacksonville this Sunday to train its eye on T.O., but the Jaguars will be in the view-finder, too.

If you want respect, win this game. Put your best foot forward when the national media is watching. This is the time for the Jaguars to show the nation who and what they are.

Cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Brian Williams will have a chance to steal the spotlight from Owens. Go ahead, shut him out. That's what wins respect; top performances against top players.

Byron Leftwich and company will have a chance to prove the Jaguars, indeed, have a formidable offense, instead of the version that scored just three points in that playoff loss to the Patriots. Go ahead, score some points. That's what wins respect; scoring points against a good Cowboys defense.

The Jaguars are going to have a lot more opportunities to earn the national media's respect this year. They could have that chance in week two, depending on Ben Roethlisberger's availability. Clearly, the opportunity will present itself again in week three in Indianapolis.

There are going to be high-profile games in Philadelphia, against the Giants on Monday Night Football, in Miami, at home against the Colts and Patriots, and at Kansas City, maybe, in the season finale. Why waste the first true opportunity?

Here it is. Just win, baby, win.

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