JACKSONVILLE – It's here. At last.
And as the Jaguars at long last prepare for postseason football at EverBank Field, here's a bit that may be as unnecessary as it is timely:
Yes, before the Jaguars play the Buffalo Bills Sunday, do your pregame thing. Pray. Stress eat. High-five. (And pray again if you like). Go through your lucky routine, but most of all: enjoy it. Goodness knows you've earned it. And know this, too:
The team you're rooting for knows you've earned it, and it has a sense of being glad to experience this with this fan base. That's not the No. 1 thing on players' and coaches' minds, but is it up there?
Yeah, it's up there.
"We (players) obviously have wanted it for so long, but so have they (the fans)," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said as the AFC South Champion Jaguars (10-6) prepared to play the Bills (9-7) in an AFC Wild Card game at EverBank Field Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
"We haven't had a playoff game in forever. We haven't had a winning season."
Head Coach Doug Marrone realizes it, too. He has said since talking the job in January that giving fans a team they can be proud of matters, and said early this week earning a home playoff game for those fans absolutely matters.
"I look at it for our fans, their loyalty and resiliency throughout difficult times here and not having been in the playoffs since '07 and not being able to have a home game since '99," Marrone said Monday. "I'm excited for our team and I'm excited for our fans. They've gone through quite a bit."
Now, reminding fans to enjoy themselves obviously isn't the week's main Jaguars theme. To be sure, it's dwarfed by others:
How to run like their No. 1 rushing ranking suggests they should run …
How to snap a two-game season-ending losing streak and play like the team that began December as one of the NFL's hottest teams …
How to turn #Sacksonville from a regular-season thing to a January – and even a February – thing …
All of that is football stuff, which is paramount as the Jaguars prepare to play their first postseason game in a decade against a franchise ending an 18-year postseason drought of its own.
But within that last paragraph is another theme that can't be ignored this week – that one very cool part of Sunday is it's a game between a couple of teams with long-suffering fan bases that darned sure deserved better than what recent history gave them.
"They deserve it," Posluszny said. "It's going to be exciting for the fans, for the players. We're excited to be a part of this."
The last time the Jaguars played host to a postseason game? The AFC Championship Game following the 1999 season, when the Tennessee Titans ended the Jaguars' Super Bowl dreams with a 33-14 victory on January 23, 2000.
The Bills played their last postseason game two weeks earlier, when those same Titans pulled off the Music City Miracle that catapulted them into the aforementioned title game.
The Jaguars at the time had made four consecutive postseason appearances; the Bills were ending a decade that began with them playing in four consecutive Super Bowls.
The point: that past and present success is no guarantee of future success – and that making the postseason is hard. It's not supposed to be as hard as these two franchises have made in in the last couple of decades, but it nonetheless is hard.
Posluszny well knows this. He's playing in the postseason for the first time in an 11-year career. Tight end Marcedes Lewis knows it, too. He's playing in the postseason for the first time since his second season.
"It's exciting," Lewis said. "Playing at home in the playoffs? That rarely happens. For us to not be in the playoffs for 10 years and have a home game? That's exciting. Obviously we want to take advantage of that.
"We understand the fans want us to win and we want them in the stands. It's good to finally be able to do that. It's pretty awesome."
Lewis is the longest-tenured Jaguars player. He heard rumors of relocation around the turn of the decade, and he heard the myths that the Jaguars' fan base lacked passion. He has seen the Jaguars have playoff success and goodness knows he has seen a lot of losing.
On Sunday, he'll see 69,000 rabid fans that sold out EverBank last week in eye-catching, myth-busting fashion stuffed into the stadium he has called home for more than a decade.
Perhaps he will take time to savor the moment. Either way, you should – at least after you stress eat (and pray).
The playoffs are coming to the 'Bank. It's here. At long, long last.