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Time to crumble the Titans' mystique


We thought the AFC Central title would be on the line when these two teams were to meet this Sunday in Jacksonville. That is clearly not the case, but this remains a very important game for the Jaguars.

Why? Because at some point in time this team has to overcome the hold the Titans have on the Jaguars, and especially at Alltel Stadium.

Winning in Pittsburgh is great, but two years from now the Jaguars will likely be in a different division from the Steelers, and that annual two-game series will be history.

However, expectations are that Jacksonville and Tennessee are joined at the hip in realignment discussions, and what currently exists in the way of a rivalry between the two teams will only grow when the two teams move together into their new AFC digs. AFC South? That's the expectation.

With that in mind, the Jaguars have to break the Titans' spell before the Jaguars cement a tradition of being unable to beat the Titans, much as the San Diego Chargers have against the Oakland Raiders.

Since the start of divisional play in 1970, the Chargers are 19-39-2 against the Raiders, including a period from '70-'84 when the Chargers were a meager 6-23-2 against the Raiders.

Included in those figures is a "Holy Roller" loss in 1978; you remember, Dave Casper pushed a fumble forward and into the end zone on the final play of the game. It led to a rules change, but not before the Chargers' psyche was destroyed for games against its most bitter rival. Two years later, the Raiders upset a great Chargers team in San Diego to claim the AFC title.

The bizarre and the unexplained seem to happen when one team develops a mystique over the other one. Cleveland lost 16 consecutive years in Pittsburgh, despite five of those Browns teams making the playoffs. At one point, the Browns were so desperate for a win in Pittsburgh that owner Art Modell sprinkled Cleveland Stadium dirt on the Three Rivers Stadium artificial turf. The Browns tried different modes of transportation and different hotels; nothing worked. Talk about a psyche job.

That's what the Jaguars have to avoid. Tennessee is on a roll against the Jaguars, whom the Titans have beaten five times in a row, including three consecutive wins in Alltel Stadium. In fact, the Titans franchise is 5-1 in games played in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars need to strike a blow for themselves and their stadium. They need to begin establishing a tradition of beating the Titans in Jacksonville, much as the Titans have built an intimidating record at Adelphia Coliseum, though they're only in the second year in that facility.

It doesn't take much to turn the tables. One big play at the right time, or one dominant victory at the right time and the Titans' mystique will have crumbled. That's what the Jaguars can accomplish this Sunday in Jacksonville. If they don't, we'll be talking about it again next season, and it's not something a team wants to hear twice a year, every year.

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