It's no coincidence that in the same week the Jaguars are thought to no longer be postseason contenders, interest in the season has faded. That's how important the playoffs are. They are the goal of every team in every season.
Immediately, there is a degree of sag in everyone's mood, and that includes the fans'. There is genuine despair about what's happened to this team this season. It wasn't supposed to be like this. We believe it shouldn't be like this. Are we sure?
That's what time will tell us. Teams that fall on their faces immediately after a run of success believe their fall is a fluke. They cling to the belief that it can be fixed just as quickly as it became broken. It's an understandable thought because losing is a new experience. It's still unacceptable.
Consider how it's been for teams such as the Packers, 49ers and Steelers. Each of those teams has gone through crash seasons recently, and in each case they treated their demise as though it was a fluke. Then, they found out it wasn't; they discovered they were in need of re-tooling.
The Jaguars are now considering the possibility they have deficiencies they must fix. They still cling to the belief they are a talented team that can still get on a roll and make a run at the playoffs, but with each loss more credence is given to the possibility, even probability, that this team's time has run out.
Sunday, the Jaguars will be facing another team whose time may have run out. The Dallas Cowboys cling to the belief they can remain Super Bowl contenders, but there's no tangible evidence of it.
Here's 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the Cowboys:
- Don't make it easy--The turnovers have got to stop. Yes, a punt is better than a turnover. Don't make it easy for the Cowboys to score.
- Run, run, run--Dallas is last in the league in run-defense, a stat that invites its opponents to keep the ball on the ground. That plays right to the Jaguars' strength, which is running back Fred Taylor. By the way, the Cowboys' pass-defense is third in the league.
- Stop Emmitt Smith--The Cowboys' running game used to be the best in the league. Now, it's only middle of the road, but it's 11 spots higher than their 27th-ranked passing attack.
- Pressure Troy Aikman--He's no longer a tower of strength in the pocket. Sadly, Aikman is at the stage of his career that he crumbles under any kind of rush, and his 52.1 passer rating is last in the NFC and next-to-last in the league.
- Disregard the mystique factor--The Cowboys are no longer "America's Team." They are just another team. Treat them that way.
- Listen to the coach--Tom Coughlin is under more criticism than at any previous time in his career. Just do what the guy says. If he's got to take the heat, it should be for all the right reasons.
- Don't do too much--It won't take a Herculean effort to beat the Cowboys. Just block and tackle.
- Play for pay--It's come to that. In the second half of this season, jobs for next season will be on the line.
- Don't give up, don't ever give up--The Jets earned a lot of respect for the inspired brand of football they played late last season, when the playoffs were no longer a hope.
- Remember 1995--The Jaguars were 3-5 at this point in their inaugural season. Will this year produce the worst record in Jaguars history?