The second half of the season certainly started off the right way for the Jaguars as they went into Nashville and beat the Titans 28-13 last Sunday. Fred Taylor reached a milestone with 10,000 career rushing yards in the home of the team that has been his and the Jaguars nemesis for his entire career. Long time Jaguars fans remember Taylor saying the Jags were better than the Titans at the end 1999, even after they lost their only three games including the AFC Championship that year to Tennessee.
That was last week, and the Jags can't rest on that success as they have an opponent coming to Jacksonville this Sunday in the San Diego Chargers that is starting to resemble the 14-2 team from last year more so than the team that started 1-3 this year.
The Chargers are 4-1 since that terrible start to the year, including a 41-3 victory in Denver, and hanging on for a 23-21 victory over the Colts last week that helped make the AFC South race a whole lot more interesting. The only loss over the past five weeks was a memorable one though, as they gave up and NFL record 296 yards rushing to Adrian Peterson and lost to the Vikings 35-17.
So which team will show up in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon, the
team that struggled early on and in the Vikings game or the team that
has looked dominant on several occasions this year?
One thing that is sure is that the game will not be short on
excitement. It is Fred Taylor's first home game since joining the
10,000 yard club, the Jaguars haven't played in front of the home fans
in a month, and two of the premier players in the NFL and future Hall
of Famers in Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson will be coming to
Given the schedule structure of the league this might be the last
chance for fans to see these two play in Jacksonville, and people
should cherish that opportunity (we shouldn't have to wait until
Thursday to find out if the game is blacked out or not, but that is
another story altogether). Gates looks to be on his way to breaking
the tight end records that Tony Gonzalez is currently setting and
Tomlinson could end up being the best running back to ever play the
game. Despite joining the league in 2001, a full four years after
Fred Taylor, Tomlinson can become the 22nd member of the 10,000 yard
club with 91 yards rushing on Sunday and has already surpassed 100
touchdowns in his career (10th place all-time with 120, 108 rushing).
Tomlinson is the engine that makes the Chargers go, and they will
surely look to establish the run early to open up the passing lanes
for Phillip Rivers to throw to Gates, Chris Chambers, and Vincent Jackson. As competitive a player as he is, Tomlinson is going to want
to come out this Sunday and silence the rumors that Peterson is
already the best running back in the league, a title that LT currently
holds, and rightly so.
The Jaguars defense has played very well this season except for
single-game breakdowns in each phase of defense. They gave up 282
yards rushing (team record) to the Titans in week one and 445 yards
passing and 538 total yards (both team records) to the Saints.
Those two games make the defense look much worse on paper than they
have actually been. They have repeatedly made big plays and defensive
stands to help the team to continue to win with backup Quinn Gray at
quarterback. They will need to be on point in both facets to be
successful on Sunday in a game that could be a low-scoring defensive
battle but could just as easily turn into a shootout if both offenses
play to their potential.
L.T. is such a classy player and already one of the all-time greats and
I will applaud him for reaching 10,000 yards like any true fan should.
I just hope that I'll be doing it from the sports bar next week when the
Chargers play the Ravens, as the Jags defense hopefully won't let it happen this
week at the Jack for one simple reason.
This Sunday is a celebration of Fred Taylor, the best player to put on a Jaguars uniform in team history.
Looming Large: LaDainian Tomlinson
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