Jaguars hoping to avoid a repeat of history

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:53 AM ET

TORONTO - It’s not like the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t been in this situation before.

Last year after 12 games they were 7-5; same goes in 2006.

In both previous occasions, though, the Jaguars fumbled the proverbial ball and ended nowhere in sight of the playoffs.

Last season, the Jags lost their final four while in ’06 they went 1-3, the three losses coming over the final three weeks of the season.

So given their recent history, finishing on a high note isn’t their strong suit.

In Jacksonville these days, however, the feeling and the saying is that things are different, that when the season ends they will be singing a different tune and it will be the Indianapolis Colts and their fans that will be the ones crying into their hands.

To begin with, for the first time since Peyton Manning was born, the Jags aren’t looking up at the Colts at this point of the standings.

In fact, at 7-5 they are in first place in the AFC South, a half-game ahead of the 7-6 Colts.

To maintain their advantage the Jaguars, a team that nobody thought had a sniff at a playoff berth before the season started, have to dispose of the inconsistent and dangerous Oakland Raiders, who at 6-6 are still in the hunt for the AFC West crown. It’s a longshot for the Raiders at this point, but it’s there.

The following week is the big one for the Jags and Colts as Jacksonville travels to Indianapolis.

If Jacksonville beats Oakland and then the Colts, they will have sewn up the division crown.

The Colts, meanwhile, can clinch the division if they win their final three games as they will have the tiebreaker over Jacksonville.

First up, though, are the Raiders, a team that looked just terrible in losing back-to-back games to Pittsburgh (35-3) and then Miami (33-17) before bouncing back last week in a 28-13 shocker over the Chargers.

So when you face the Raiders, you never know which team is going to show up.

Countering that is the Jags’ history of folding late in the season. And that’s something that their head coach, Jack Del Rio, definitely didn’t bring up this week.

“There’s no need,” Del Rio told the Florida Times-Union. “You guys bring it up enough. It’s painful enough to read it once. They don’t need to hear it again.”

Well, maybe not from him, but it’s something the veteran players haven’t forgot.

“That will definitely be reiterated this week,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “It’s the same situation, and we’re not going to let it happen again.”

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jags’ chief offensive weapon, agreed.

“Our experience is better,” he said. “We understand that we’ve got to take it one game at a time. Last year, you see the playoffs and I’m not saying that we were overlooking anybody, but in the back of our minds, we were thinking about the playoffs.

“So right now, it’s about doing whatever we can to keep pushing, keep fighting, scratching and clawing. Whatever it takes to get a victory.”

The Jaguars enter the game on a bit of a run as they have won four of their past five with their lone loss coming two weeks ago when they let a game against the Giants slip away. They outplayed the Giants through the opening 50 minutes but allowed Eli Manning to stage a comeback in a 24-20 loss.

Lately, the Jags have had the look of a more polished team. They can grind it out on the ground thanks to Jones-Drew or air it out through quarterback David Garrard.

“I like our physical approach,” Del Rio said. “I like the fact that we’re playing smart and tough football, not turning it over, very few penalties — those are things we’re looking for.”

Now it comes down to how the Jags handle themselves in the stretch. Will it be like past seasons where they’ve only known failure or do they now have the goods to get the job done?

“I think this team is resilient,” Garrard said this week. “We’ve shown it all year long. We’ve had some ups and downs. We’ve been able to respond to some bad games, to some adverse situations in games and still be able to pull out the wins. I just think this team has bought in.”

Their first big test comes Sunday.

Then it’s the Colts for all the marbles.

Go figure?


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