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Rewards at hand if they win


The Jaguars have reached the point of the schedule that will deliver the rewards they seek, but only, of course, should they win.

This is the tough part of the schedule. Following an extended run of what most people would describe as "soft" opponents, the Jaguars make the turn into a stiff closing slate, beginning with a trip to San Francisco this weekend for a game against a team most consider to be better than its record and in a stadium in which the Jaguars have never played a regular-season game.

The rewards are a playoff berth and respect, but only if the Jaguars win enough of these games to earn both.

"We're not worried that people are giving us respect or not giving us respect. They didn't give us respect in '07. As we continue to win, we'll get that respect," quarterback David Garrard said.

Continuing to win means notching enough wins to make it into the playoffs, and the Jaguars will have to accomplish that feat against a schedule that includes four consecutive games against AFC playoff contenders: Houston, Miami, Indianapolis and New England. The first three of those are at home; that's the good news.

"It's not getting any easier for us, it's getting tougher, but it's good for us. I think this just gets you ready for that playoff-type atmosphere," wide receiver Torry Holt said.

So here we are. It's show-me time for a team that has out-performed expectations and wants to convince its critics that it, indeed, is as good as its record. That quest begins Sunday in San Francisco and will play out through December. Are the Jaguars for real? Now we'll begin finding out.

Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the 49ers.

    • Run the ball—That's what the Jaguars do best and stopping the run is what the 49ers do best. My best against your best. It's easy-to-understand football.
    • Give him some help—Rookie Julius Williams will be making his first-ever start at defensive end this Sunday and the 49ers will no doubt target him.
    • Make them nibble—Big plays beat the Jaguars in their last trip to the West Coast.
    • Gore him—Frank Gore has Maurice Jones-Drew-like ability to take over a game. He must be discouraged early in the game.
    • Win at quarterback—It always comes down to the matchup at quarterback. In this case it's David Garrard vs. Alex Smith. Their stats are similar.
    • Start fast—The Jaguars have been winning lately with a fast finish, but that's a dangerous way to live, especially on the road far from home.
    • Dig your feet in—Late in the season, the Candlestick turf gets soft and slippery.
    • Block Patrick Willis—The Jaguars didn't block Paul Posluszny.
    • Win the battle of the hitting—Mike Singletary is all about physical football and he demands it from his players. Be ready for it.
    • Focus—This is an opportunity to erase the stigma of the 41-0 loss in Seattle and prove it was just a fluke.
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