Jaguars' Shot At Playoffs Could End Sunday

David Garrard

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has lifted his ban on the word playoffs. That's because the Jaguars, in effect, start their playoffs Sunday against New England. They have two regular-season games left against the Patriots and the Chiefs and they'll make the playoffs if they win both...

...If they lose both, they're out at 8-8 and if they split, they'll need a lot of help with the tiebreakers at 9-7.

The Jaguars, who are 8-6, have a five game season ahead of them. If they win the final two regular season games and three playoff games, they'll be in the Super Bowl.

Del Rio said, "We're in that playoff-type mode because we're in that got-to-win, got-to-win right now. Any margin for error was left in previous weeks and we have just zero margin for error."

They lost the margin for error last Sunday in Tennessee when the Titans returned three David Garrard turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble recovery -- for touchdowns to win, 24-17.

They at least got control of their own destiny back when the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Indianapolis Colts Monday night.

Until this week, Del Rio banned any talk of the playoffs because he didn't want the team to look ahead.

But now the atmosphere is just like the playoffs and they're playing a team that's won three Super Bowls in this decade, although the Patriots haven't looked super of late and the Jaguars are actually favored.

A year ago, the Jaguars lost a playoff game at New England, 28-3, in their first playoff appearance since 1999.

If they're to return to the playoffs, beating New England is the first step to getting there.

Notes:

Del Rio: I Voted For Brady

Coach Jack Del Rio doesn't think the Jaguars will have extra motivation because they had only one player make the Pro Bowl -- cornerback Rashean Mathis. They thought defensive tackle John Henderson, who declined to talk to the media Wednesday, was a lock, but he finished as the first alternate. Running back Fred Taylor also was a first alternate.

"I guess I don't really believe in that type of motivation. I don't know that being angry or upset about something motivates you to do more," Del Rio said.

He said he's more concerned about players being disappointed in not making it.

Del Rio was surprised that the Patriots had only one player make it and that quarterback Tom Brady was snubbed.

"I assure you he was the starting quarterback on my ballot," he said.

Garrard Ready For Challenge

David Garrard and Tom Brady have two things in common. Neither made the Pro Bowl and neither has a big-time receiver to throw to.

That's about the end of the comparisons. Brady has won three Super Bowls and Garrard is just trying to win a job and rebound from last week's four turnover meltdown in Tennessee.

Garrard wants to show he can bounce back from that game.

"My last performance was pretty bad," he said. "So it's definitely going to be a test for me. I know that this game is going to be a pretty good test and I'm going to be ready for it."

Running Back Shuffle

Running back LaBrandon Toefield, who was active for only three of the first 14 games, may get a chance to showcase himself against the Patriots.

With Fred Taylor nursing a sore hamstring, Maurice Drew is likely to start, but he's probable with a knee injury. So Toefield, who had six runs for 25 yards last week, may get a lot of playing time.

Since he'll be a free agent at the end of the year and has little chance to play behind Taylor and Drew, Toefield knows he'll help himself in the free agent market if he plays well.

"I'll play anywhere as long as I can get on the field. It only takes one team to like you. That's all it takes. I don't know what's going to happen. I'll just wait it out and see."

Crowd Support Missing

One of the unanswered questions about the Patriots' game is whether the Jaguars will get a big crowd for a Christmas Eve game.

Two years ago, the stadium was only about two-thirds full for a game the day after Christmas that they lost to the Texans, 21-0. The loss cost them a playoff berth.

Now they'll be playing on Christmas Eve and again need a victory to make the playoffs. Coach Jack Del Rio said he'll be shocked if the stadium isn't full.

But Fred Taylor didn't sound like he'd be shocked.

Of the Jaguars problems drawing crowds, he said, "I don't think it affects you, but it makes you kind of feel like you're a little bit underappreciated. Even last year when we made it to the playoffs, it didn't seem like everybody was all the way into it."

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