Jags Struggling Against Losing Teams

The Jaguars still have playoff hopes with a 6-5 record, but a tough schedule ahead could make it hard for them to reach the 10-6 mark that may be needed to even have a chance at a wildcard spot.

When the Jaguars went 12-4 to make the playoffs last year, the key to their success was their ability to beat losing teams. They went 9-1 against losing teams and coach Jack Del Rio said a team needs to beat the teams they're supposed to beat and split the rest to make the playoffs.

But this year, they've lost their touch against the losing teams. Their 27-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills dropped them to 6-5 this year and four of the losses have come against losing teams.

Now they go to Miami to play a Dolphins team that has a losing record at 5-6 but has been on a roll and will have had 10 days to prepare after their Thanksgiving victory in Detroit. The Jaguars will have to go 4-1 in their last five games to get the 10-6 record that it usually takes to get a wild card spot and even a 10-6 mark doesn't always make it.

They still have two teams on their way to winning division titles -- Indianapolis and New England -- on their schedule, along with a season-ending game at Kansas City on New Year's Eve. If the Jaguars don't get on a roll, they could finish 8-8 or worse.

That would put Del Rio on the hot seat in 2007 because he'd need to win a playoff game or he'd have five consecutive years without a playoff victory and he might not survive that. That's why Del Rio had a clear message for his team after the loss to the Buffalo Bills last Sunday. He said the Jaguars need to play with more emotion and fire at the start of games after they fell behind 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and 17-14 at halftime.

"The guys need to be a little more emotionally into it, especially when we're playing a team we feel like you should beat. We need to prepare a little harder and come out with a little bit more fire, a little bit more zeal. Something needs to happen early in the game," quarterback David Garrard said.

He added, "Basically, we've got to light a fire under our bellies. We just can't come out lax, if that's the word for it, to start the game. We've got to come out with some emotion. Basically, that's what Jack (Del Rio) kept hammering home on us."

Cornerback Rashean Mathis said, "We came out slow. That's been something we've been trying to get rid of in some games. This is a game we didn't come out fast and it bit us in the butt at the end."

Defensive end Paul Spicer said, "Jack's a fiery coach and he's kind of emotional to the team. He knows we were a little flat coming out. Most of the time, when everybody is fired up and taking care of business, we take care of business. Today, that flatness showed."

The Jaguars also have some injury problems. When cornerback Brian Williams sat out the Buffalo game with a hamstring injury, he became the fourth defensive starter to be sidelined. They've already lost Reggie Hayward, Mike Peterson and Donovin Darius for the season.

Rookie Dee Webb, a seventh-round draft pick from Florida, got his first start at cornerback in place of an ailing Brian Williams and struggled at times. He was guilty of a pass interference penalty against Lee Evans that set up a touchdown. He intercepted a pass but then fumbled it away, he also and got caught inside and lost leverage when Willis McGahee bounced outside for a 30-yard touchdown run.

The Jaguars eventually changed their strategy and had Rashean Mathis cover Evans all over the field and played Scott Starks on the other side, although Webb still played in nickel situations.

The mounting injury list may be taking its toll on the Jaguars.

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