As Jaguars fans continue to clamor for respect in the wake of the team's rousing victory over the Steelers on Monday night, Colts President Bill Polian curiously denied the Jaguars status as the Colts' top rival.
"I don't doubt they've been planning all year for this game. I don't know if they're our Hatfields, but we're certainly their McCoys. I'm certain it's a game they feel is pivotal for them," Polian said in his "The Polian Corner" column on Colts.com.
It's a curious comment because it could find its way onto the Jaguars' "bulletin board." Certainly, Polian's words will not be lost on the Jaguars, who will travel to Indianapolis this weekend for what is likely to be the first of the two most important games on the Jaguars' schedule this season.
"We'll have no problem with them getting our full attention," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "I think they understand that when we come to play them, we're going to challenge them."
Make no mistake about it, the Colts are the Jaguars' McCoys. The Colts are, without a doubt, the Jaguars' number one rival. The three-time defending AFC South champion is the team blocking the Jaguars' pursuit of a division title and the Super Bowl.
Polian, however, isn't feeling the heat of the Jaguars' pursuit, even though a win in the RCA Dome on Sunday would reverse the two teams' roles. With a win over the Colts on Sunday, the Jaguars would take the AFC South lead and the Colts would find themselves a game behind the Jaguars in the standings and a few notches lower on the ever-important respect meter.
Colts coach Tony Dungy and his quarterback, Peyton Manning, didn't give the Jaguars the brush off.
"We try to look at the importance of the game; that all the division games are critical. These guys had a tough slate. They had Dallas and Pittsburgh. We had the Giants in a game that got hyped as much as any regular season game I've been involved in, and then we had another division game. But you always know you have to take care of your division home games, so this one will be a big one for us," Dungy said on Wednesday.
"Every time we play these guys it's been a big game, whether it's been here in Indy or down in Jacksonville," Manning said. "Every game we have played has come down to a last drive or a field goal, going both ways. You know what you're going to get in this game. It's going to be a 60-minute football game. It's going to come down to the 60th minute."
The Colts have won 10 consecutive AFC South games. The last time the Colts lost a division game was on Oct. 24, 2004, when they were upset in Indianapolis by the Jaguars, 27-24.
Last year, the Colts swept the Jaguars. The first game, in week two in Indianapolis, was a defensive slugfest; a 10-3 Colts win. The second game, in Jacksonville in early December, was a blowout. The Colts scored early and often and raised their record to 13-0.
They were the darlings of the NFL. They were everybody's pick to go all the way, but they lost in the playoffs right away, at home to the Steelers.
In the offseason, the Colts lost star running back Edgerrin James. The obvious question is: Has the window of opportunity closed on the Colts?
"I don't think so and that's what we're trying to develop, a team that is going to be good for the next 10 or 15 years. But for individual guys, sure. Time is going to run out on you and that's why, hopefully, we can get the job done here quickly," Dungy said.
Is time running out for Manning, who's the game's best regular season quarterback but is 3-6 in the postseason and has the reputation of a big-game disappointment?
"It's very difficult when you lose your last game in a playoff situation. It's always going to stick with you. You just can't forget about it. I have found that if you keep a hangover from it then you will never get on to the next season," Manning said.
This is "the next season" for both teams and Sunday's game is the first showdown in the AFC South for both teams, whether you're a Hatfield or a McCoy.