MJD - the man in JAX.
(Jacksonville, Fla.) The Jacksonville Jaguars are hosting the Tennessee Titans for the next Monday Night Football game on ESPN. For the Jaguars, however, it is a tremendous opportunity to gain some much needed exposure.
Jacksonville is the second-smallest market in the NFL (Green Bay being No.1), and rarely do you hear them discussed outside of Northeast Florida unless the topic is about potential team moves to larger markets. It is no secret that the Jaguars struggled in 2009 to fill seats for home games, but this season the fans have come out to support the team.
After starting the season with a home victory against the Denver Broncos, the Jaguars went on the road to San Diego and were humiliated, only to return to get embarrassed again at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, the Jaguars are now on a two-game winning streak having defeated Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts at home, and traveling to Buffalo and defeating the Bills convincingly.
Now 3-2 and tied for first place in the AFC South, the Jaguars have a huge opportunity to defeat a conference foe and hated rival, the Tennessee Titans.
More importantly, the Jacksonville Jaguars have an excellent opportunity to showcase their low profile team, players (Maurice Jones-Drew notwithstanding), and city to NFL around the country.
Why is this important for the Jacksonville Jaguars? Let's take a look at why.
James Walker is a National and Syndicated Writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on:
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The Jacksonville Jaguars have the distinction of being the second-most popular football team in Northeast Florida taking a back-seat to the Florida Gators. It's not all their fault; the stadium is still known to many as the "Gator Bowl", and the team has been alive less than two decades.
The team has not developed a culture within it's own community like other football teams. It will take years for that to happen, but the Jaguars have to help that process along the way.
One way to overcome the "step-child" viewpoint is to establish a winning attitude. The Jaguars have struggled as of late to win consistently. They have been known to play-down to the level of competition, but last week when they traveled to Buffalo, they fell behind quickly before coming back and never looking back.
The Titans come calling Monday night, and the memory of the 1999 season still lingers in Jacksonville. That season the Jaguars went 14-3 with all three losses at the hands of the Titans. It was the same season that Titans head coach Jeff Fisher made his infamous blast calling then Alltel Stadium another home game for Tennessee.
The Jaguars need to not let teams have that type of opportunity any more. Jacksonville must create a strong football identity.
Everbank Field may one day become known as the Tomb of the Unknown Football Players. Seriously, the Jacksonville Jaguars lack big name players. Jaguars fans may disagree, but if you doubt this claim ask any casual fan outside of the area to name five players from the Jaguars. Don't be too bummed out with the results.
Monday night is an opportunity for players to soak up some limelight. Mike Sims-Walker finally showed up last Sunday against the Bills, Kirk Morrison has been a nice acquisition from the Oakland Raiders, and Aaron Kampman has done something the Jaguars haven't done in quite some time—sacked the quarterback more than once.
Other players have had their name mentioned from time to time. Rasheen Mathis has been to the Pro Bowl, Tiquan Underwood has shown some big-play moves this season, and Mike Thomas may become a good slot receiver.
In any case, this game provides chances for the Jaguars to make a name for themselves.
With a three-way tie for first-place in the AFC South, the Jaguars have a chance to maintain a tie or perhaps command first place of their conference with a victory over the Titans. Tennessee goes as far, and as fast, as running-back Chris Johnson takes them, so it's conceivable that the Jaguars could win this game.
The Jaguars secondary has been suspect this season, but if Jacksonville can contain Chris Johnson then the Jaguars should win the game. Of course mistakes and turnovers always play huge roles in every game.
Marcedes Lewis was drafted with high expectations.
Ever since the Jaguars traveled to San Diego and got humiliated again on another trip to the West Coast, Del Rio has been on the hot seat. Things didn't get much better when they came home to get embarrassed again by the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, defeating the Colts at home and the Bills on the road may have turned down the heat some. The seat is still hot, so Del Rio and his staff need to continue winning games to have the heat turned down even further.
Monday night is a perfect opportunity for that to happen. The Titans are arguably Jacksonville's most hated rival, and a victory at home on national television may do the trick.