Well, we wanted it all season long and now we've got it. Respect. The Respect of the National Media, the Respect of our fair-weather fans, the respect of the league. I don't like talking about "respect" all that much because it requires us to quantify the unquantifiable, but for this special week, it's something to cherish.
The Jaguars and the Steelers are being featured on Saturday night in the ONLY prime-time game during Wild Card weekend. And you know for damn sure that's not for the reeling Steelers. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who we've beaten three times in a row. The team we emasculated only a few week ago. The team that's lost their best offensive lineman, defensive lineman, and running back in consecutive weeks. Jacksonville is going to be featured in a prime-time game against a team with a fantastic national fan base. While it's not going to receive the hype of any Patriots game this season, it'll have a huge amount of attention.
Now, you'll have to keep one thing in mind about the sudden "rise" of the Jaguars in the eyes of the national media. It's completely a relationship of convenience. There just isn't many stories about the Patriots and Colts left to tell that hasn't been completely overplayed over the last two seasons. Jacksonville is a hot team that's had little attention this season, so there's new material to explore and angles to explain. They're the media darling by default, as they're desperately searching for something fresh, a new face to show the world.
So enjoy it, cause it's a very special time for us. But don't get too cocky, if we blow out of the playoffs on Saturday, that "respect" will be burnt and our Jaguars will be another "also-ran".
That said, let's take a look at what's being said about the Jaguars today...
Peter King of Sports Illustrated keeps the Jaguars behind the Chargers in his "fine fifteen":
Vic Carucci of NFL.com breaks down the playoff matchup:
Reuben Frank of SI wrote a fantastic piece about the Most Important Coaching Decision of the 2007 Season, that being the last minute replacement of Byron Leftwich with David Garrard. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's a few choice excerpts:
A few days before opening day, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio decided to not only bench starting quarterback Byron Leftwich in favor of David Garrard, but cut him.
Leftwich had taken the Jags to the playoffs two years earlier and Garrard was a career .500 quarterback who had lost the last three games in 2006, dashing the Jags' playoff hopes while filling in for an injured Leftwich.
Del Rio made a lot of changes going into the 2007 season, but none looked as crazy or turned out as well as this one.
"Coach Del Rio looks somewhat like a genius," tailback Fred Taylor said.
Matt Jones is featured in this article in the Florida Times-Union. Matt Jones faced a challenge on Sunday to prove his worth to the team that will face serious questions about who to keep and who to let go in their Wide Receiver Corps. Matt had a chance to be a star on Sunday, and he lived up to it with 8 catches, 138 yards and a TD. Of course, in Matt Jones style, he dropped or missed another 40 or so yards, but that's an aside. What impressed me most about Matt on Sunday was a 14 yard catch he made over the middle when there way no way he could have not seen the huge hit coming his way. Matt made a huge catch in traffic and took a hit, showing that perhaps he's not as "soft" as we made him out to be.
My prediction for Jones is that his future as a Jaguar will be decided in Training Camp next August.
John Clayton of ESPN decides to look ahead and lay odds on who can beat the Patriots. While I completely discourage any and all Jaguars Fans to stay away from any thought of any game after this Saturday, it's impossible to ignore the national media all of the time. Personally, I believe that we're playing one week seasons right now. Nothing exists after Saturday until the clock strikes zero:
There is no doubt the Jaguars would give the Patriots problems with their running offense. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew could put up 150 yards on the Patriots. But that's not enough anymore. Unless the Jags' running series result in more touchdowns, the Patriots would win.
Odds against the Jaguars beating the Patriots: 20-to-1
MJD of Fanhouse is very worried about the Steelers:
And then there are the Steelers, who aren't even limping in ... they're dragging their own limp, bloated, blood-soaked carcass into the playoffs.
They've lost three of their last four, but that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that they just gave up 180 rushing yards to fellows named Musa Smith and Cory Ross, and in the process, earned themselves the right to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will come to Pittsburgh with fellows named Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Statistically, the Jags have the 2nd-best running game in the league, while the Ravens are quite average. If Cory Ross is gashing them on the ground, it's hard to imagine what the Jaguars will do -- wait, scratch that ... it's actually not difficult at all to imagine. It will probably look a lot like this.
That's the Week 15 game, in which Fred Taylor averaged 5.9 yards-per-carry against the Steelers, and Maurice Jones-Drew averaged 5.8. Certainly, things can change over a period of three weeks, but the Steelers have done nothing to indicate that they will. There's no magical gameplanning solution for getting the sugar beaten out of you along the line of scrimmage.
It doesn't seem like a playoff game, between two teams that are both supposed to be among the NFL's best, should be so simple ... but it was that simple in Week 15, and again, the Steelers haven't shown that they've fixed anything in the time since. If anything, it's gotten worse.
Dan Shanoff, ye of little hyperbole, takes a different angle:
So there you have it, the respect we've always wanted/deserved. The rest of this week is devoted to what we've got on our plate for Saturday. I understand that there's about fifty billion bowl games to watch, several cases of Champagne to drink tonight, etc, but I implore you to stick around here this week and follow along as we prepare to face the Steelers!