Work in Sports
Two-stepping around Tennessee is paramount to playoffs
The Jacksonville Jaguars, 14-2 last season, have some proving to do. Arguably the best team in the NFL during the regular season, their two losses came at the hands of Tennessee -- and then the Jags dropped the AFC title game to the Titans, too, in Jacksonville. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Jaguars this season. You can find SI's season preview on CNNSI.com on Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) With the Jaguars projected to be $20 million over the cap next year, which will signal the whole depressing round of roster trims and desperate restructuring of contracts, is this season the last hurrah for the Jags as we know them?
2.) How come the Titans have Jacksonville's number?
3.) Was the Mark Brunell-Tom Coughlin blowup last year a momentary aberration or something to worry about?
4.) Coughlin choked off the Jags' offense during one stretch last season and had it playing not to lose, which made everyone unhappy. Then he opened it up down the stretch. Is there a coherent philosophy at work here and are people really comfortable with the head coach running the attack?
5.) Will left tackle Tony Boselli, the best offensive lineman in football, be fully rehabbed from his knee injury by the start of the season?
6.) With no Jimmy Stewart around, what happens if Fred Taylor gets hurt again?
The Jaguars can make the playoffs if ... they can beat the Titans, for one. Man, there's a mental block there or something. The Jags still have all they need to make a run at the Super Bowl. Mobile quarterback Mark Brunell should be healthier than he was in '99, wideouts Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith form one of the best receiving tandems in the league. They lost runner James Stewart to fee agency (Detroit), but they still have Fred Taylor (4.6 yards a carry, when healthy) returning to what was the best running attack in the league. The defense was best in points allowed last season (13.6 a game) and fourth overall, led by solid linebackers, a wonderfully talented secondary and a really good defensive line. Most return. The Jaguars aren't a shoo-in, but they're close.
Pivotal Games : In Jacksonville, they're marking two dates: an October 16 prime-timer at Tennessee and a Nov. 26 one at home against the hated Titans. There's a nice one against Indianapolis, too, on Sept. 25, and the Colts are maybe the Jags' biggest competition for the AFC title. But, heck, it's the AFC Central's Titans who really matter.
On the Hot Seat : Left tackle Tony Boselli is coming off knee surgery. If he can be anywhere close to what he was, he'll be great. If not, it may not be as smooth sailing for the Jags as everyone thinks.
Up-and-comers : Cornerback Fernando Bryant is an easy pick. The first-round pick from Alabama started all 16 games last season and was fourth on the team in tackles. Not particularly big (5-foot-10, 174 pounds), but he can do the job.