Fred Taylor has always had a little extra incentive for games against the Titans. After all, the Titans are the team that took from Taylor his best chance of playing in the Super Bowl.
"I can't speak for my teammates, but the incentive for me is that they're the Titans. I've been playing that team since I got in the NFL, my entire career," Taylor said this week, as the two teams prepared for a game on Sunday that is being billed as something bigger than it may actually be.
Consider the two teams' incentive for winning on Sunday.
• The 9-0 Titans are trying to become only the second team in NFL history, and in as many years, to post a perfect 16-0 record. So, is that a strong incentive? What is the Titans' real incentive for winning? They're so far ahead in the AFC South and homefield advantage races that a loss will still leave them with a cushion.
• How about the 4-5 Jaguars? Yeah, this is a "big" one for them because a win would even their record and allow them to cling to flickering postseason hopes for at least one more week.
So what's big about this one? It's big because these are two rivals, one of whom has made a habit of spoiling the other's fun and now the Jaguars would like to return the favor.
"We were 30 minutes away from all of our goals and our dreams," Taylor said, referring to the Titans' second-half rally to win the 1999 AFC title game in Jacksonville.
Let's flash forward, if you don't mind. After all, that was nine years ago.
The 2008 Titans are the only undefeated team in the league. They have jumped out to a lead over the Colts and Jaguars no one predicted. This has been a special season for a team that lost its starting quarterback in a season-opening win over the Jaguars, and found a quarterback who appears to be a perfect match for what the Titans like to do, which is to say run the ball, convert third down and control time of possession.
"Every team is beatable. I don't want to get into the record part of it but every team is beatable. I'll say that," Taylor said, without saying too much. Taylor's remarks, however, left little doubt that he believes the Jaguars can beat the Titans.
The Jaguars won't beat the Titans if they don't protect quarterback David Garrard better than they did in the first game between the two teams, when Garrard was sacked seven times and threw two interceptions.
"It is very important but also getting the ball out of my hand faster; not waiting for things to develop downfield as long. Just keep the chains moving; that's what's important. I have to make sure I stay upright," Garrard said.
"We think we can beat anybody," Garrard added when asked if he believes the Jaguars can beat the Titans, "but everybody has to show up. We have to be better than we were the first week; much better than we were the first week."