Maurice Jones-Drew knows there is a future, and knows there are games beyond Sunday's.
But while the Jaguars' two-time Pro Bowl running back knows this is true, and knows there are without question six games remaining in the 2011 regular-season, he knows it's just as true those games mean nothing until Sunday's is played.
And Jones-Drew said something else about those six games.
They'll mean more with a victory Sunday.
"I really haven't looked that far (beyond Sunday's game)," Jones-Drew said this week as the Jaguars (3-6) prepared to play the Cleveland Browns (3-6) at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I know some of the teams we're going to play, but we have to focus on the task at hand, which is Cleveland."
The task at hand is a team that is similar to the Jaguars in many ways.
Not only have the Browns had opportunities this season to be better than their record – they lost, 13-12, last week when kicker Phil Dawson's 22-yard field goal sailed wide against the Rams – they are struggling offensively.
Whereas the Jaguars are ranked 32nd in the NFL offensively, the Browns – with running back Peyton Hillis out the last five games with a hamstring injury – are ranked 30th in the NFL in offensive yards, 30th in rushing.
Also like the Jaguars, the Browns have stayed competitive because of an improved defense.
Although the Browns are ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing defense, they are first overall against the pass and in their three victories they have allowed 19, 16 and three points. They have allowed more than 20 points just once in the last four games – a 30-12 loss to Houston.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, rank fourth in the NFL in total defense, but have scored 20 or more points just once, averaging just over 12 points a game.
"We've got to get some points," Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "Our defense is playing great right now. Our special teams are playing well. If we can figure out a way to score in the 20s then we're going to be tough to beat."
The Jaguars this week prepared for the Browns in the wake of a season-ending injury to cornerback Rashean Mathis. Derek Cox has moved from the right side to Mathis' old spot on the left side, and Will Middleton – a starter in four games in place of Cox earlier this season – will start Sunday on the right.
Also for the Jaguars, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton will miss a second consecutive game with an ankle injury, and defensive end Aaron Kampman is expected to be out a second consecutive game with a hamstring injury.
C.J. Mosley will start in place of Knighton, and Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said Friday the focus this week remained as it has been throughout the course of the season.
"All year, I feel like the team has prepared well and the energy has been good," Del Rio said. "The week of preparation has been good. Now, it's letting Sunday arrive, finishing up meetings. It's been another solid week of preparation."
The Jaguars spent the week preparing knowing they remain three and a half games out of first place in the AFC South, and knowing that that's a large deficit with seven games remaining. But they also spent it with the knowledge that they have a game next Sunday at home against the AFC South-leading Houston Texans.
The Texans beat the Colts in late October, 24-14, but on Monday it was reported that Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is likely out for the season. That prompted questions throughout the week about a possible late-season run should the Texans falter.
"We can't worry about who's next and who's after that," Jones-Drew said. "If we don't take care of Cleveland, what's the use in playing those games?"
Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said while seven games remain for the Jaguars, "This is a one-game season for us.
"It's how we're approaching it. It's a chance to get back into it, especially with the things going on in Houston. They took a huge hit with Schaub being gone for the season. We're going to try to do our part to climb back into this thing one game at a time. It would be like the past couple of years where about this time we put ourselves in position to make a run, but like I said, we have to take it one game at a time."
Said Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, "You can never look past an opponent at this level. Everybody's too good. We are going to concentrate on the Cleveland Browns. It's the most important game on the schedule.
"For this week, nothing else affects us. We need to do everything we can do to beat the Browns. We need to focus all of our energy on strictly that."