In the NFL, there are must-win games and there are it-would-be-nice-to-win games. Take the Jaguars’ most recent game against the Titans, for example. Clearly, with the division title and a playoff berth at stake, it was a must-win game.
On the opposite spectrum, look at the game against the Giants the week prior. It, unlike the game against the Titans, was not a must-win game. It was an it-would-be-nice-to-win game. Why? Because the Giants are an NFC team. Other than an improvement in the team’s overall record, a win against the Giants would’ve done little to help the Jaguars secure the division title.
But for the second week in a row, the Jaguars are facing a must-win game. We can come to this conclusion for two reasons: The Raiders are an AFC team and the Colts beat the Titans on Thursday Night Football, putting them just one game behind the Jaguars.
There was never any doubt the game against the Titans was a must-win game, but the same cannot be said about the game against the Raiders. Clearly, Sunday’s matchup with visiting Oakland has not only the makings of a must-win game, but it has the makings of a trap game. That’s the worst kind of must-win game (I swear that’s the last time I’ll use that phrase).[smartads]
Sunday’s game against the Raiders could be a trap game because Oakland is easy to overlook. They are, after all, the Oakland Raiders, a team enchanted with mediocrity, silliness, and terrible personnel decisions.
However, said Raiders are 6-6, just one win away from having the same record as the Jags. Just ask the Chargers or the Chiefs. Oakland swept San Diego this season and beat the Chiefs on a last second field goal.
The Jaguars, of course, lost to both of those teams. Badly.
Another reason it’s easy to overlook Oakland is because of the game that follows: Jacksonville at Indianapolis, the game that most agree will likely determine the AFC South champion.
That is, of course, provided the Jaguars are able to trounce Oakland. To do that they’ll have to forget about the showdown in Indianapolis for 60 minutes of game clock.
Much of this lies in coaching: Can Jack Del Rio and his staff get his team prepared to play the Raiders with such a seemingly important game following it? Are the player head’s thinking of Peyton and Co., or are they thinking of Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden?
These types of hurdles seem to be the most difficult for young teams, and young the Jaguars certainly are.
Several Jaguars will be making a return to EverBank field Sunday. They include former star DT John Henderson, former bust DE (now playing LB) Quentin Groves, and former “I hate this hick town” LT Khalif Barnes.
They appear to be pumped up. “They better bring it. That’s all I gotta say,” said John Henderson, who is the Raiders third DT. He also added that he wasn’t pleased with his released, and that the game has been circled on his calendar for months.
Quentin Groves, who was given numerous opportunities to produce in his two-year Jaguar career, added in response to Del Rio’s assertion that he wasn’t productive in Jacksonville (2.5 sacks in two years), “He hasn’t seen me productive, but yet still, I can’t say it. I ain’t gonna’ say it, but it’s his opinion. He’s entitled to that. He’s a grown man, but we’ll see on Sunday.’’
Okay, can anybody make any sense out of what Groves said? I sure can’t. But he didn’t make much sense while he was here, so I suppose it’s fitting.
On the other end, former Raider Kirk Morrison has taken the high road, neglecting to talk smack about his former team. My guess is that Morrison will talk his smack physically, rather than verbally, while on the field. My guess is that neither Henderson, Groves nor Barnes, will have much of an impact on this game at all.
Look for the Jaguars to stick with their run-first strategy of the past couple of weeks; the Raiders’ rush defense is 23rd in the league; its pass defense is ninth.