Make or Break? And I’m NOT talking about the post season…
By Zoltan Paksa
Unless we witness a bigger miracle then the Hail Mary (which was ironically also against Houston), I think the Jaguars will play their last game in the 2010 season. We can say it was an emotional rollercoaster with big highs (Scobee’s 59 yard FG, the Hail Mary, and more than one last minute game winning TD) and big lows (the blowout losses early in the seasons and the last three heartbreaking losses). I think this game absolutely matters, as it will be the final chapter . So even without the David Garrard and Maurice Jones Drew (Justin Durant and Zach Miller, too) the Jaguars should win this game. Why? Here are a couple of reasons:
1. A victory would mean that this is not another full collapse.
If the Jaguars lose this game this will be the 3rd loss in a row. Before the 1st loss, Jacksonville was the leading team in the AFC South with 1 victory ahead of the Colts. Now they are 1 game behind Peyton Manning’s team. If they lose against the Texans, the Jaguars will duplicate the 2006 season. After a big victory against Indianapolis, they lost 3 in a row, one being a very close battle with the Patriots and the other two being very bad to watch (Titans, Chiefs). Well they had 1 ugly (Redskins) already and I see similarities between the Colts and the Patriots game. I hope we will not witness another Kansas City this week. That would be the 4th late season meltdown (’04, ’06, ’09) under Jack Del Rio, which would have to make Wayne Weaver consider if he is the right person for coaching his team. However, if this turns into a 9-7 season, I think we can say 2010 was a major step forward to the Jaguars. They could finish with a winning record at 2nd place on the division. Almost no one expected those kind of results from the Jaguars this year.
2. A loss and the resulting changes could destroy what the Jaguars built so far this season
With all the flaws f this team, I see that this group are really fighting for each other. GM Gene Smith’s “character counts” philosophy is paying off lately, even if the Jaguars a losing I see the care in the players. I start to hear not just the cliché catch phrases after a defeat, but people who are deeply sorry that they cannot drag another W for this franchise. I see that they trust in each other and more importantly in the coaches leading by head coach Jack Del Rio. Before the season started many beat writers (for example Gene Frenette from the Florida Times Union) that the atmosphere in the locker room was never so good like this year. I agree with that observation (based on of course my limited access). But if we will witness a coaching change, that atmosphere/chemistry could be gone, which in my opinion would be a huge step backwards.
As I mentioned the Jaguars will be without Garrard and Jones-Drew, but I think even with Trent Edwards and Rashad Jennings as starters the Jaguars can take care business in Houston. The Texans defense is horrible, and now they are without Mario Williams. The only 2 playmakers (Brian Cushing and Bernard Pollard) left in the defense are banged up. If the Jaguars O-line can limit Antonio Smith and Mark Anderson and keep them away from Trent Edwards, he can operate with slant passes, and “dink and dunk” kind of short yard passes. Plus if they take care of the ball and the running game will be more effective then last Sunday, I think the offense can handle the Texans defense even without Maurice and David.
Of course the real match up will be the Texand offense vs. the Jaguars defense. Although it may look that the Texans are shut themselves down for this season, they played very hard (on offense) against Denver. This week they might be without Andre Johnson which sure could boost the Jaguars chances. But Matt Schaub still has WR Kevin Walter & Jacoby Jones and TE Owen Daniels, and they are still presenting major threat for the Jaguars secondary. Not to mention Arian Foster, the leading rusher of the NFL. The Jaguars hold him 56 rushing yards in Everbank Field. Daryl Smith and co. must do that again. And let’s not forget the AFC Pro Bowl starter FB Vonta Leach too! We can’t expect 30 points from an offense led by Edwards and Jennings so the Jaguars defense must force turnover and/or must keep the Texans offense around 20 points (that amount of points are –maybe- manageable to level for the Jaguars offense).
I know the Jaguars most likely will not reach the playoffs. Does anyone think about how would a game look like against the Baltimore Ravens with Trent Edwards as the Jaguars starter, and most likely without Maurice Jones-Drew. Not to mention, that the huge amount of tickets the franchise would have sell in 4 or 5 days (9000/ day would be the magic number to not blacked out that game.). So no, I think this game is not about the playoffs, at least for not for me. This game is about finishing the season on the high note, with a winning record. I think the players feel the same. The “players only” meeting on Monday suggesting that they feel the same. They know many things are on the line: For example the fate of the head coach, some players’ future, ticket sales. For many in the organization this is “make or break” time. And once again I talking about winning this game, not mentioning the playoffs. Let’s hope that the Jaguars will make it on Sunday, and they can go to the off-season with a little smile on their face!
Prediction: Jaguars 21- Texans 20