The numbers are not in the Jaguars' favor. Simply put, the numbers say the Jaguars' postseason run is over, and with each loss the numbers become more irrefutable.
For example: Ten wins will usually land a team in the playoffs, but all of the Jaguars' four losses are against AFC opponents, which means the Jaguars wouldn't win a tie-breaker in a season that is producing one of the largest-ever fields of AFC playoff contenders. That means the Jaguars will probably have to win 11 games to make the playoffs.
If 11 wins is the standard for the Jaguars, then, they must win nine of their remaining 10 games, and that's a very tall order with two games against Tennessee, one against Washington and trips to Dallas, Pittsburgh and the New York Giants remaining on the schedule.
The schedule was stacked against this team from the start. It was a team with an offensive line in disarray and needing to buy time before it could begin playing its best football. Unfortunately, the Jaguars' schedule was most difficult in the first half of the season, with six of its first seven games all-important AFC Central contests, three of which were against the top two teams in the division.
This season had a doom and gloom factor from the start. To have denied that was to be unrealistic. Now, there is no denying it. There is only dealing with it and making the most of it, and finding a way to recover.
Nothing would signal recovery more than a win Monday night in Tennessee. Because the Titans have beaten the Jaguars four consecutive games, and kept the Jaguars out of the Super Bowl last season, a win Monday night would qualify as a one-win-fixes-all event.
Any chance the Jaguars have of staging a miracle rally to make the playoffs hinges on a win in Tennessee. The numbers are real simple: Win in Tennessee Monday night, or the Jaguars will have to win 'em all the rest of the way.
Here's 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the Titans:
- Forget the Titans--Revenge sounds nice, but teams seldom win games with anything on their minds but the game itself. Forget about the past. Play for the present.
- Look at old tapes--The Jaguars had a marvelous record of stopping Eddie George, until last season. Beating the Titans begins and ends with stopping George.
- Hit the quarterback--Titans quarterback Steve McNair is developing into a first-rate NFL quarterback, but he is not the most durable guy. Hit him early and often. Force him to run.
- Run it, or else--Opposing defenses have completely disregarded the Jaguars running game, and are dropping seven guys into the passing lanes. That's Mark Brunell's biggest problem; not a fragile psyche but a fragile running game. Make the Titans play run, which they didn't in last season's AFC title game, or prepare for the worst, again.
- Nibble at the corners--The Titans believe the way to beat the Jaguars is by taking away the big play, so, take what they give you. That means a lot of short, underneath stuff.
- Be patient--The Titans are not a blow-you-out kind of team. They move the ball slowly in long, sustained drives. They allow you to be in position to win in the fourth quarter. Don't panic early in the game.
- Rally 'round Brunell--He's still this team's leader. The Jaguars don't win unless he plays well. He holds this team's future in his hands, but his confidence hinges on his teammates' support.
- Make The Delph home--Of course, you remember coach Jeff Fisher's statement that the Titans consider Alltel Stadium their home field. The Titans have never lost at two-year-old Adelphia Coliseum. Do I smell a set-up?
- Rally 'round the coach--Brunell isn't the only guy on this team who's had a rough week. Coach Tom Coughlin has to feel as though he's public enemy number one. A win would go a long way toward establishing the coach-team relationship the Jaguars will need to weather the storm of this season.
- Dignity before victory--The Jaguars remain the most successful expansion franchise in NFL history. They were winning playoff games while the Titans were trying to find a place to play. More than a win, the Jaguars need to play with the dignity their five-year record has earned. The Titans' time will come, too.