CLEVELAND—All thoughts can now turn to next Sunday's game against the Colts. It is the big game. It's the game that could propel the Colts to the first 16-0 regular-season record in NFL history. It is also the game that could earn the Jaguars all of the acclaim and respect for which the Jaguars' fans have pined.
Are the Jaguars ready? Can they beat the Colts?
"Yeah, because I think we're a good team. I think we can beat anybody," Marcus Stroud said following the Jaguars' 20-14 win over the Browns on Sunday.
OK, so what other answer would you expect? Of course he's going to say the Jaguars can beat the Colts. There was, however, something convincing in Stroud's eyes and in his tone of voice. You'll just have to trust me on this one.
Stroud sold me. He was the first of many to do so, and I'm not someone who is easily sold. In fact, I'm not sure the Jaguars can beat the Colts, but I'm sure the Jaguars believe they can.
What Stroud and his teammates won't buy is the notion that their task is to end Indy's dream of a perfect season. That'll be the storyline, for sure. It's what will interest the nation, but it's not going to interest the Jaguars, so they say.
"To every man on this team, we don't care what they're doing. They're just another obstacle. We can't worry about what they're doing, we have to worry about us," Stroud said.
"If the Colts think they can beat us, we think we can beat them," Rashean Mathis said. "Our defense is going to play the same game we did the last time and our offense is going to score more points."
As Mathis uttered those words, his right hand was in a bag of ice. Mathis injured his hand and it will not help the Jaguars' cause if Mathis has to play one-handed against Peyton Manning and company.
Truth be known, the Jaguars will be facing long odds against the Colts. They will be confronting the most feared quarterback in the game with a backup who will be making just his second start of the season. The Jaguars will be attempting to do what no other team on the Colts' schedule has even come close to doing, other than the Jaguars, of course.
This one isn't about the playoffs. The Jaguars took care of the playoffs in their win over the Browns. At 9-3 they are in firm control of the wild-card race and with three soft finishing games.
Playoffs? No, this one is about esteem. This one is about making a statement; about becoming an elite team.
"Can we beat them? We can beat anybody if we play our best game," Ernest Wilford said.
"When we play Indy everything goes out the window," Jimmy Smith said. "It's just going to come down to us and Indy. It's probably going to be the biggest game of the season for us."
Ditto, for the Colts.