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Second what-if game


But by the grace of the Minnesota Vikings, Byron Leftwich would be playing quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at Alltel Stadium.

Do you remember the draft-day scenario that allowed the Jaguars to select Leftwich?

The Vikings had the seventh pick, the Jaguars had the eighth and the Ravens had the 10th. The Ravens knew they had to leap the Jaguars to get Leftwich, so the Ravens initiated trade negotiations with the Vikings. The trade was done but the Vikings didn't get it to the commissioner in time. The clock expired on the Vikings' pick and that put the Jaguars up to bat and the Jaguars picked Leftwich.

Wow! What a twist of fate and it'll become a legendary draft-day story should Leftwich become a championship quarterback in Jacksonville.

The Ravens picked Terrell Suggs with the 10th selection then traded into the 19th spot to select quarterback Kyle Boller. Most believe that had the Ravens made the deal with Minnesota and drafted Leftwich, the Jaguars would've taken Suggs.

This Sunday's game, therefore, becomes the second post-draft installment of the what-if draft. What if the Ravens had gotten Leftwich? What if Suggs had become the Jaguars' pick? Where would Boller be now?

"It worked out for the best. I love it here," Leftwich said on Wednesday.

Leftwich, Suggs and Boller came together one other time on the field since that 2003 draft day. As rookies that year, the Ravens scored a 24-17 win over the Jaguars in Baltimore. Leftwich was 22 of 34 for 208 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Suggs had a sack and a forced fumble. Boller was 10 of 23 for 156 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Since then, Leftwich's and Suggs' careers have blossomed, while Boller's may be in the process of dying on the vine. He'll make his first start this Sunday since the season-opener and what he does the remainder of this year could determine his future in Baltimore.

Leftwich, on the other hand, is firmly entrenched as the Jaguars' quarterback of the future. He even further established himself last Sunday with an 11-for-11 performance in the second half, leading the Jaguars to a come-from-behind win over the Houston Texans.

Was the second half of that game the Jaguars offense's coming-out party?

"I don't want to call that a coming-out party. When we have a coming-out party, I'll let you know," Leftwich said. "That's not our standard. We scored 21 points before."

It is not the Ravens' standard to allow coming-out parties. Though Baltimore is a lowly 2-6, it still has one of the top defenses in the league. It's number two overall; 10th against the run and fourth against the pass.

"They think they're the best defense in the league and they act that way. We have to make sure we're ready for the challenge," Leftwich said.

Linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring) and safety Ed Reed (ankle) are listed on the Ravens' injury report as "out" for this game. The Jaguars listed running back Fred Taylor as "doubtful" after re-injuring his ankle in the win over Houston.

"Our job is to score one more point. That's every week. It doesn't matter who you play. It comes down to the fourth quarter," Leftwich said.

Fate would also seem to be involved. The circumstances for this game could be very different.

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