This is truly the biggest trap game of the season.
First, a weak pass defense gets weaker. Second, a weak team gets a bit stronger and adds a source of hope and inspiration. Third, its a divisional game, and those are normally close.
Its the type of game where you sit around all of Saturday just wanting the game to be over, because a win is not that impressive, and a loss would be simply put: demoralizing.
Its the matchup of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennesse Titans, and earlier this year, many people thought that maybe this matchup would be the other way around. That it would be the struggling Jaguars against a decent Titans team.
Yet, fortunes have changed this season, and Tennesse is the team that is struggling for its first win, and Jacksonville is the team that is positioning itself, as of now, for a playoff position.
And on paper, this looks like an easy win for the Jaguars. For was it not the Jaguars who beat the Titans 37-17 just three weeks ago? For is it not the last ranked Titans pass defense? For is it not the 0-6 Tennesse Titans?
Yes, it is all three of those. But you just don't get a good feeling in your stomach about this game.
On paper, the Jacksonville Jaguars should be able to throw all over the last ranked Tennesse defense, with a superstar in the making Mike Sims-Walker, an up and coming rookie in Mike Thomas, a savvy veteran in Torry Holt, and a resurgent tight end Marcedes Lewis all having sizable days.
On paper, the Jacksonville Jaguars should be able to stop Chris Johnson, considering they have secretly amassed a decent rush defense, and have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this year.
On paper, Vince Young should throw a couple picks, and pretty much fail as the Titans quarterback, as he has not shown much improvement and has historically struggled against the Jaguars.
On paper, this should be an easy win; and, it may as well be so. The Jaguars may have a repeat or an even better performance then the last go out with the Titans.
But my stomach says differently.
My stomach says that the Jaguars will do a typical Jaguar thing and go out and lose to the Titans and put a large damper on the new season.
My stomach says Garrard and MJD will struggle, and that the Titans defense will present a inspired performance.
My stomach says that Vince Young will lead a huge win for the Titans, and I wont be able to watch any sport channels without hearing how the Titans are back.
So what wins stomach or brain?
1. I really don't care MJD, this is not your game. It will be a mistake not to pass all over the Titans last ranked pass defense, and to not utilize the connection finally establishing between rookie Mike Thomas, Mike Sims-Walker, and Torry Holt.
So, the Jags' Passing Game vs Titans' Pass Defense is my number one matchup, because if the Jaguars can establish a passing game it will set up the run as it did against St. Louis.
2. Derek Cox, this is your game to prove yourself. Yes, I ultimately believe you were well worth the pick, but lets see you as a number one corner. You are going against Vince Young, who makes errant throws all the time.
You need to go after some balls, and lets see you finally get a chance as defense rookie of the week. With the injury of Rashean Mathis, the matchup of Jaguars pass defense and Titans pass offense is my number two matchup of the game.
3. The Jaguars defense has been playing very well against the run, and if Chris Johnson, who I think is quite overrated, all he does is the occasional big play (its nothing or a big play and most of the time its nothing but that's another discussion) is shut down or at least slowed down, the Jaguars should be able to win this game, which is why its my third matchup of the game.
4. Special Teams has been on and off for the Jaguars, who had a great game against Tennesse field position wise. If the Jaguars have a poor showing tomorrow, field position could end up determining who wins the game.
However, that is if and only if the Jaguars play poorly, so it falls to number four on my countdown of matchups.
5. Usually a number one priority in the Jaguars matchups, MJD vs the Titans defense, falls to number five on my list because once again, unless the Jaguars struggle throwing the ball, which seems unlikely, MJD should not be a big part of the game.
In fact if the Jaguars have a repeat performance of last time these teams met this should be called Rashad Jennings vs Titans run defense.
Well, in this one, I'm going to trust my heart, which says that the Jaguars are a character-driven team, who already had their major letdown of the year in the loss to Seattle and will come out prepared and ready for the game.
Also, this game reminds me of the game last year in Jacksonville, in which the scuffling Jaguars soared out early to a 14-3 lead, but ended up losing the game 24-14. This could be the same type of game, except maybe vice versa.
One final thought on the game. There has been alot of talk that this is a must-win game for the Jaguars if they want to make the playoffs. Here is where I would like to disagree.
The Jaguars should, and definitely need to win this game, but it is not a MUST-win game. A MUST-win game would be week 17 against Cleveland with a win putting you in the playoffs and a loss putting you out.
Sure, the Jaguars' season may take a serious dip with a loss, but it does not END the season. Sure, they would arguably have to end the season 7-2 to enter the playoffs or maybe even 8-1, but it would still be possible.
Yet, this is a game the Jaguars need if they want to be playoff bound, which with the weak schedule is a definite chance of.
Although those games are probably more important than this one, as a win could allow the Jaguars to overcome a tie break with a team for the wild card spot, such as with the Texans or Jets, where it seems likely.
Anyways, this game is huge for the Jaguars, but it is certainly not a MUST-WIN.
But a win is really really really important.