These are the games you have to be able to win if you want to go to the Super Bowl. You have to be able to go to a place like Green Bay in December or January and play cold-weather football. You have to be built for the cold, even though you're from Florida.
Oh, sure, it happens from time to time that a warm-weather or dome team gets homefield advantage and cruises to the Super Bowl without having to deal with the winter elements, but it doesn't happen that way often. St. Louis has made it to the big game a couple of times in recent years, but the Rams are also the only dome team in history to ever win the Super Bowl.
Let's put it this way: More than likely, you're going to have to either win on the road and in the cold late in the season to claim homefield advantage, or win on the road and in the cold in the playoffs. Simply put, it's to every warm-weather or dome team's advantage to be able to play the cold-weather game.
The Jaguars can. Though they lost in the snow and cold in New England last December, they gave the Patriots a real struggle before succumbing to the Patriots' superior talent.
"I would agree," Packers coach Mike Sherman said of the statement the Jaguars are built more for cold weather than your typical Florida team. "They're a good running football team. Obviously, they play great defense and certainly have the capability with their receivers and quarterback to throw the football. I would agree with that statement."
The Jaguars are built more for cold weather than your typical Florida team because of their coach's overall philosophy of football. He believes in a strong running game. He believes in aggressive defense. Those are the ingredients for playing cold-weather football.
Sunday's game in Green Bay will be the ultimate cold-weather test. This is going to be a true barometer of where the Jaguars stand in their quest to become a playoff team.
We know they can run the ball for yards, but can they grind it out in the biting cold? Do they have the wherewithal, the resolve to play that game? Are they tough enough?
And we know they have a defense that can get it done at home – they haven't allowed more than 18 points in their last four home games – but can they get it done on the road and in the cold against, arguably, the best cold-weather quarterback in NFL history?
The playoffs have already begun for the Jaguars. This is single elimination. They must win. How could we ask for a more playoff-like situation than will be the case in Green Bay on Sunday?
Are the Jaguars a playoff-caliber team? We'll have our answer some time in the early-evening hours at Lambeau Field this Sunday.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Packers.
- Stop Favre—All you have to do is look at the facts. In Brett Favre's only loss at Lambeau Field when the temperature was below 34 degrees, he had a 54.4 passer rating. That's what it takes to beat the Packers in the cold at Lambeau when Favre is at quarterback.
- Run it, run it, run it—The Packers are 11th against the run, but that may be more a product of teams spending their time throwing against a pass-defense that is 27th. The Packers don't dare crowd the line of scrimmage; they'll need all of the help they can get in their secondary. Lowly Detroit ran the ball last Sunday and almost won.
- Make it count—Don't dink and dunk with the passing game. The ball will be hard; fingers will be cold. When you throw it, make it count. Throw it down the field.
- Field position first—Establishing field position will be at a premium. In the kind of frigid conditions expected this Sunday, turnovers are almost a certainty. If they're going to happen, you want them to occur on the other guy's side of the field.
- Stay warm—Whatever it takes, don't let the cold win. Once it does, it's over.
- Play like this is it—Because it is.
- Go to the next level—It's time for Byron Leftwich to become a third-year quarterback. He needs to play at his highest level.
- Deny the perimeter—The Packers are not a power-running team; they rely on finesse and love to attack the perimeter, which has been the focus of Jaguars opponents since the start of the season. The Jaguars' linebackers must fly to the ball on the outside.
- Have a common goal—And that goal is to make the playoffs and face Indianapolis in the first round.
- Make another statement—The Jaguars made a statement on national television two weeks ago. Here's another chance to tell people who you are in a high-profile TV game.