It's a Thanksgiving ritual. At some point during another stinky Lions game the wife looks up from the pages of the store catalogue she's been turning and asks: "What do you want for Christmas?"
What you wanna say is, "for everyone to ignore the whole thing," but you have plans to watch football from noon until midnight and it's very important not to say or do anything that might jeopardize that 12-hour extravaganza. So, you divert your attention from another stinky Lions play, face the little woman, give her a smile and act as though you have as much as a shred of interest in what she's asked.
There are other considerations here, too. If you don't give her an idea, she'll come up with one of her own and that would almost certainly be costly. Send her in inexpensive directions: a dozen golf balls, a tie and socks, or, you know, honey, I'm starting to get a little low on that 12-year-old stuff I hide under the sink. It's important to set the tone: Keep the cost down.
Well, the question came yesterday at about the time Peyton Manning was throwing his third or fourth touchdown pass, and I couldn't help but think: You know what I'd like? I'd like for the Jaguars to be the AFC's sixth-seeded playoff team and for the Colts to be the number three seed and for the Jaguars to play at the Colts in the first round of the playoffs.
I didn't express that wish, of course, but I was thinkin' it. Here's why:
• The Jaguars and Colts have split the two games they've played against each other this season. We need a "rubber match."
• It's not as though Peyton Manning hasn't done well against the Jaguars but a third game between the two teams is exactly what the Colts don't want.
• A third game between the two teams would really define the Jaguars' position and place in the AFC South, for now and for the future.
For the record, I went with the tie and socks, but I already know I'm getting a new electric razor.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Vikings:
- Use the Colts game plan—The Vikings are the NFC version of the Colts. Hey, the Jaguars did OK in their last game against the Colts, dust off that game plan and use it against the Vikes.
- No big plays—The Vikings are going to move the ball and score points, but they have to be made to work for what they get.
- Achieve balance—One massages the other. Run it a little, pass it a little; keep a bad defense from being able to load up against one or the other.
- Protect Leftwich—This will be Byron Leftwich's comeback game and no one's quite sure how far back he is. The Jaguars need him for the stretch drive.
- Embrace the season—It's Thanksgiving weekend. The playoff chase is on. Go!
- Get fired up—Emotion suits this team well.
- Ignore the noise—It's all fake, anyhow.
- Make hay—Baltimore is at New England, San Diego is at Kansas City and the Jets are at Arizona. With a win in Minnesota, the Jaguars could take a serious step toward a wild-card berth.
- Make the kicks—Professional football teams that miss field-goal attempts usually lose the game.
- Thank heavens for domes—Playing outside in Minnesota at this time of year would not be fun for a team from Florida.