I usually count the Colts as the litmus test for the Jaguars each year. Whether it was to find out if the Jags were contenders or pretenders in 2010 or whether the team was off to a good rebuild last year, the Colts have been tied to the Jaguars in my mind. With the emergence of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, the Colts have outstripped the Jaguars and put the team in its place: below them.
So, this season we look to a different game to find a litmus test for the Jaguars.
This year, we have the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills host the Jaguars this Sunday for a showdown between two teams with a combined record of 6-16. For anybody outside of Buffalo and Jacksonville, this game doesn’t mean much. For the two teams coming to face off in Ralph Wilson stadium, it means an awful lot. For the Jaguars it means a step in the right direction and the possibility of stringing together some late season momentum. For the Bills it is a game for Chan Gailey to prove he’s still the answer and for Ryan Fitzpatrick and his group of playmakers to show that they are actually worth the investment the team has made in them.
The Bills have been beat by the Colts, Texans, and Titans this year. If the Jaguars fall they will be the first AFC South team to lose to the Bills. The Bills have only beaten the Chiefs, Browns, Arizona Cardinals (in overtime), and the Miami Dolphins. Of those four, only the Dolphins are a quality opponent.
The Jaguars, in my biased opinion, are a better team than the Chiefs, Browns, and Cardinals. However, after watching the game against Tennessee, I question whether the Jaguars’ offensive line is any better than those three and whether they can even hope to stop a Bills defense that has more talent than they show on a weekly basis. Mario Williams is all too familiar with the Jaguars and will be looking to exploit everything he learned while with Houston.
The Bills are at a crossroads. Their head coach has only won 32% of his games in Buffalo since arriving in 2010. His seat is getting warmer by the week. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a talented quarterback who looks on form sometimes but falls too short far too often. In the backfield Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller give a 1-2 threat that is hard to beat. Stevie Johnson is a true top-flight receiver. Yet the Bills underperform based on their talent.
This is a team that has invested heavily in the future and found the future to be unwelcoming.
Unlike the Jaguars, the Bills turn heads and make splashes in their personnel decisions. Like the Jaguars, the team continues to flounder.
These Bills are a team the Jaguars can beat. These Bills are a team the Jaguars can feel proud to defeat. Not because the team is necessarily good, but because the Bills are a team that is in a similar spot as the Jaguars. Their rebuild is taking just as long as the Jaguars’ and they haven’t even sniffed playoffs in over a decade.
The Jaguars can show they aren’t going to be the desperate franchise the Bills are. They can make this a statement win that separates them from teams like the Bills. The Jaguars won’t be the franchise that is irrelevant for over a decade.
That kind of pride is on the line on Sunday.
The litmus test is whether the Jaguars will eventually return to glory or join the Browns, Bills, and Chiefs in the bottom of the NFL for the next decade.
I pray the Jags step up and separate themselves from such company.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims