The Jaguars aren't about to say anything that it'll make its way onto the Tennessee Titans' bulletin board, but the Jaguars know of the schedule the Titans are facing over the next five weeks of the season, and that this Sunday's game could prove to be a turning point for both teams.
"We don't have to do any more of that than we've already done," coach Tom Coughlin said of making his players aware of the importance of this game.
A win would leave the Jaguars at 2-0; the Titans at 0-2. The last time the Jaguars were 2-0, their opponents were the visiting Titans, who sparked little interest in Jaguars fans. The game was saved from becoming the first TV blackout in Jaguars history by an 11th-hour corporate buy-out.
The year was 1999. Tennessee won that week-three game when Samari Rolle intercepted a Mark Brunell pass in the end zone on third down and canceled an almost-certain field goal effort that would've sent the game into overtime.
Twice more the Titans would beat the Jaguars that season, the final time in the AFC title game at Alltel Stadium. It was a turning point in the two franchise's histories. The Titans made it to the Super Bowl for the first time ever; the Jaguars were denied a berth in the big game, in a season when the Jaguars posted the best record in the NFL. The Jaguars lost to only one team, but three times.
How big is this Sunday's game? With a win, the Jaguars can claim to have reversed the fortunes of last year's disappointing 7-9 record. With a loss, the Titans will be at a desperate state only two games into the season. They will head into their bye week with games upcoming in Baltimore, at home against Tampa Bay, and in Detroit and Pittsburgh. They would be at a crossroads, facing their first downward turn since their fortunes skyrocketed on that day in Jacksonville in September of '99.
"At this point, I don't think you can think about all of that," veteran middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson said.
Nickerson wasn't a member of the Jaguars in '99, but he says he can sense the affect those three losses to the Titans still have on the Jaguars two years later.
"There's a strong sense of rivalry here that stems from that. That was the team that kept Jacksonville out of the Super Bowl. There's a strong sense to right those wrongs," Nickerson said.
Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli promise the Jaguars will be ready to play this Sunday. The Titans have sparked an intense interest in the Jaguars and their fans, who will fill Alltel Stadium this Sunday for a game that will be steeped in emotions of patriotism for America's recent tragedy.
"It's big. It's always big when we play these guys. We could be 2-0 in the division and they'd be 0-2. It could be huge," Boselli said.
"I think fans are going to want to be a part of this weekend in the NFL. It is going to be an emotional day in the NFL," Coughlin said.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.