Once In a Decade Opportunity For Jags
Rashean Mathis gets beat (Michael Conroy/AP)

Posted Dec 17, 2010

Cornerback Rashean Mathis is in his eighth season with the Jaguars and has never played the kind of high-stakes game he will play in Sunday in Indianapolis. If the Jaguars win, they will be the AFC South Division champions.

Not since 1999 -- and none of the current Jaguars were on the team then -- have the Jaguars won a division title or even played a game with the division title on the line.

They have made the playoffs only twice since 1999 and they were a wild-card team both times.

Mathis knows what kind of opportunity this is for the Jaguars. He said, "Some of the young guys don't know how hard it is to be in this position. It's exciting. I'm sure Jack (Del Rio) is stoked as the head coach in this position with all the ramifications it has. It's great. It's a good feeling. It's time to show up."

A victory would be seen as very significant for the Jaguars, a sign that the torch is passing in the AFC South.

The Jaguars are a young up and coming team being built patiently through the draft by general manager Gene Smith. They are a draft or two away from being a real Super Bowl contender, but to win the division title would show they are on the right path.

When Peyton Manning was asked if he saw the Jaguars as an up-and-coming team compared to the Colts, a team that might be in decline, he said, "That's kind of deep for me. I'm just a Tennessee graduate. I can't analyze that deep. I prepare hard and I play hard. That's kind of my deal."

Winning a division title would also have positive ramifications for a team that is still struggling to sell tickets even though it has lifted the blackout for every game.

It would also mean they get a home playoff game and that would help energize the franchise.

So the opportunity is there for the Jaguars Sunday.

Now the question is whether they can take advantage of it.

If they lose, they can still win the division title if Indianapolis loses one of their final two games to Oakland or Tennessee and the Jaguars beat the Redskins and Texans in their final two games.

SERIES HISTORY: 20th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 14-5. Peyton Manning has been the quarterback for all but the first meeting between the two teams, which the Colts won in 1995. So he's 13-5 against the Jaguars. But the Jaguars did win the first game this year by a 31-28 margin on Josh Scobee's 59-yard field goal at the buzzer.

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