David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew agree that just as quickly as the Jaguars fell from the ranks of the playoff contenders, the team can become a playoff contender again, and they want to continue that revival this Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts.
"We just had some bad breaks this year. When we come back, do everything to win, not just to compete. Why talk about the offseason. We're buying in now," Jones-Drew said when asked if the Jaguars can recover during the offseason to become playoff contenders in 2009.
"Absolutely," Garrard said. "We still have all the components. We just have to keep guys healthy. Confidence is a big thing and if we can finish the season on a high, we can ride it into the offseason."
The 5-9 Jaguars are currently on a one-game high, having claimed their first win in over a month by beating the Green Bay Packers, 20-16, this past Sunday. Can they make it two in a row against the 10-4 Colts, who appear to be playoff-bound but have yet to clinch a berth?
"Hopefully, we can make up for the Monday night game against the Texans," Garrard said.
The Jaguars beat the Colts in Indianapolis on Sept. 21 and a win on Thursday would give the Jaguars their first-ever season sweep of the Colts since the two teams joined the newly-formed AFC South in 2002. Should the Jaguars complete the sweep, the Colts might be forced to beat Tennessee in the season finale to earn a wild-card berth.
Can the Jaguars do it? In their depleted state, can the Jaguars beat a team that is on a seven-game winning streak, or might the Jaguars be headed for a lopsided loss?
"I'm never going to say we're going to get blown out. We're going to play to win the game. What's football without a challenge? I'd be a sportswriter, right?" Jones-Drew said jokingly, maybe.
The Jaguars will be without running back Fred Taylor, wide receivers Matt Jones and Jerry Porter and cornerback Rashean Mathis, but they won without those players against Green Bay and the primary reason was that Garrard found a new favorite receiver, Dennis Northcutt, who caught five passes for 127 yards and one touchdown. Northcutt also became the first Jaguars player this season to catch a pass of 40 yards or longer.
"I had the protection, I had the time, the receivers got open, I threw the ball and they made the plays," Garrard said in explaining his success against the Packers. "That's the freshest I've been after a game."
Taylor, Jones, Porter and Mathis are on injured reserve and they have been joined by linebacker Daryl Smith, who sustained a season-ending groin injury on Sunday. Reserve defensive tackle Tony McDaniel was also placed on injured reserve on Tuesday and the Jaguars announced that they had signed defensive back Calvin Lowry and offensive lineman Cameron Stephenson. One more player was to be signed to the active roster.
"That felt great," Garrard said of the long-ball catches (41, 35 and 30 yards) Northcutt provided in the Jaguars' recent win. "When you have a guy who's running a deeper route and has a step on his guy, that gives you confidence. Dennis is a great receiver. I've been saying that.
"You see receivers who pose a threat to the defensive backs. Those are special receivers. You have to be able to work with the receivers you have," Garrard added. "I want to be one of those explosive quarterbacks. I can make all of the throws. I can throw it 65 yards in the air."