For All The Marbles

LAKE FOREST -- The Jaguars are playing for pride. The Bears are playing for position. It's a game that means little to Jacksonville. It means everything for Chicago. The Bears control their own destiny in the NFC Central, and can clinch the Division title, a No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye with a win against Jacksonville Sunday in the regular-season finale.

   The Jaguars are 6-9 and have nothing riding on this game but draft positioning.

   The Bears are 12-3 and need a win or a Green Bay loss at the New York Giants to grab the division and a first-round bye.

   "Every week it seems we've had something to motivate us," Bears quarterback Jim Miller said. "Once again, we've got a lot on the line in this game."

   The Jaguars, playoff regulars and AFC threats in the past, have fallen on hard times with key injuries on a high-priced roster. Running back Fred Taylor, the franchise's career and single-season rushing leader, has played just two games this season with a groin injury.

   One steady performer has been quarterback Mark Brunell, who has done his best to pick up the slack for the offense. The left-hander has thrown for over 3,000 yards for the fifth time in the past six seasons and has 17 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. His two favorite targets are wideouts Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, who have both surpassed 1,000 yards receiving.

   "Missing Fred has hurt us quite a bit," Brunell said. "Fred's been a big part of our offense the last few years. We have a couple of young guys that have filled in, and doing a fine job, but they're not Fred Taylor. There's not a lot of Fred Taylor's out there."

   Bears coach Dick Jauron spent four seasons in Jacksonville under coach Tom Coughlin as the team's defensive coordinator. Jauron played a major role in the Jaguars' rise from expansion team to Super Bowl contender. In his four seasons, Jacksonville won 35 games and reached the playoffs three times, including a trip to the AFC Championship game in 1996.

   "You won't meet a better guy," Brunell said of Jauron. "He has a lot of character and he's a great coach. I know when he was here the players had a tremendous amount of respect for him and enjoyed playing for him.

   "I'm sure it's no different up there."    Jacksonville can spoil the Bears' playoff party and their chance to win the NFC Central for the first time since 1990 with a win at Soldier Field. The Bears won't have a hard time getting pumped up for this one -- they know what's at stake, and what a week off with a bye means.

   It's different for Jacksonville.    "It's difficult for us to get motivated because we're not playing for any playoff position or anything like that," Brunell said. "But you've got to remain a professional, you've got to approach every game as if it's a playoff game. You have to work hard and keep a good attitude.

   "We know it's our last game, and as difficult as it may be you have to handle it like a professional."


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