JACKSONVILLE FL - NOVEMBER 14: Mike Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars walks off the field after winning a game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field on November 14 2010 in Jacksonville Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
That's right, folks. This is our week. This one is huge. We're coming off a high energy win against a Houston team that was supposed to challenge Peyton Manning and the Colts for the division. At 5-4, we're one game back in the division race, facing a Browns team that has been playing quality ball against powerhouses, beating the Patriots and Saints, and almost knocking off the Jets last week in OT. That Hail Mary made us a fun story this week, but it's also made us relevant in the playoff picture.
We just can't mess this up.Out of nowhere, the Jaguars have gone from an underdog in every game they play to a media favorite. Not meaning that they'll be picking us to win necessarily, but that we're finally getting some recognition: Mike Thomas's jersey is headed to the HOF, MJD is hanging out with Rich Eisen on his podcast, we had Garrard on ESPN on Monday, NFL network is replaying the game on TV, and they've been showing the Hail Mary on Sportscenter like... all the time.
As a fan base, we love being the unknown factor. No matter how much we ask for respect from the media, we love being the scrappy underdog with a chip on our collective shoulders, but this is our chance to step up and be a bigtime player in the playoff picture, years before the predicted end of our roster rebuilding. The Browns are certainly not as bad as their record. They've been giving good teams fits for the last month. Peyton Hilis is a mountain of a man who's been pounding teams all season. Their Offensive line, led by Joe Thomas, are a bunch of big, strong downhill blockers. Their defense has performed admirably this past month. This game will be tough.
However, this is the perfect kind of tough game for the Jags to play. A tough game against a 3-6 team. A tough game against a team whose weaknesses match ours. With no Josh Cribbs, the Browns passing game, which is already anemic, will suffer even more. Our secondary might actually stand a chance against their passing game. Our strength lies up front with Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu and in stopping the run. Arian Foster, the league's leading rusher left Everbank field with only 60 total yards last week. David Garrard has played at an unbelievable level recently, and if his play continues, this team can get to 6-4 coming off of two quality wins. We need the "good Garrard" and an offense going full steam ahead. This can't be a trap game. This can't be a flop. Not if we want to make the playoffs this year.
We know this Browns team. We faced them last year in a "should-win" game, week 17 and they sent us home for the winter, losers of four straight. Coming back this offseason, our guys remembered that loss. It "left a bad taste" in the team's mouth. That's part of why Garrard and the Jags put in so much work this offseason. This is our week to make a statement. Our roster may not sparkle, but we're the kind of team who's not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get our shirts dirty. Del Rio said the team's goal is the playoffs. Well, it's in reach.
So when the Browns get to Jacksonville on Sunday, looking to pound out a win, let's greet them with "Welcome to Duval, prepare to get hit." If we don't, we might be talking about the draft next week.