Jaguars try to lock up postseason berth, Raiders look to future Print
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Thursday, 20 December 2007 12:42
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 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -There's the possibility of a letdown following last week's big win at Pittsburgh. There's the possibility of a hangover after getting snubbed in Pro Bowl balloting. There's also the possibility of facing a sparse crowd because of the holidays.
The Jacksonville Jaguars don't expect any of those to be a factor Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Because if the Jaguars lose, there's the possibility that they'll have to win their season finale at Houston - which has given Jacksonville all kinds of problems in recent years - to reach the postseason.
``We have a chance to go out and get it right now,'' left tackle Khalif Barnes said. ``That's the best thing for us to do. Take care of business now and not have to wait or depend on someone else to lose for us to squeeze in. You want to have it happen this week.''
The Jaguars (10-4) can secure the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs with a victory. They also can clinch a wild-card berth if either Tennessee or Cleveland loses.
The Raiders (4-10) have much less on the line. Oakland's playoffs chances ended weeks ago, and first-year coach Lane Kiffin has started looking toward the future.
Kiffin is contemplating starting rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell for the first time and having starter Josh McCown come off the bench. Russell played in three series in last week's 21-14 loss to Indianapolis, but didn't lead the offense to any points.
``I think we've done it about as slow as you can,'' Kiffin said. ``He's played five series in 14 games, so there's not much slower you can do it unless you just don't play him a down at all. I think we've been very slow with him. We try to put him in a position to be ready when he's called upon to play as opposed to forcing him in.''
Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, for one, believes Kiffin should throw Russell into the starting role and see what happens.
``I wish they'd just give him the reins and let him go,'' Sapp said. ``I mean, we are not in the playoffs or anything like that. Just go put him in there to get his licks. Let him go out there and learn trial by fire right now.
``It's about that time to let him go, let us see what he's got. Watching him work in practice every day, he has everything it takes to be an NFL quarterback. But there is nothing that is going to teach him this game except the game. Let's just let him play, that's my decision. Just let him play, let him go. Let's see what he does.''
The Jaguars would like to see a lot of Russell, too.
Although his strong arm and mobility could pose problems for a defense that ranks 25th in the league in passing, Jacksonville feels it probably would be able to take advantage of Russell's youth and inexperience.
After all, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are the only quarterbacks to have big games against the Jaguars this season.
And Jacksonville's defense is coming off two off its best two games of the season, allowing an average of 183 yards in wins against Carolina and the Steelers.
The victory at Pittsburgh - in cold, wet, snowy and muddy conditions - gave the Jaguars extra confidence that, if they get into the playoffs, they can play anywhere and against anyone.
``Guys around here, we're pretty confident in ourselves,'' said running back Fred Taylor, who has four consecutive 100-yard games and was considered the team's biggest Pro Bowl snub. ``We definitely have a little momentum on our side and that helps our confidence. In years past, we used to always shy away from saying the word 'playoff.' But you've got to know what's in front of you so you can reach out and get it.
``This is our opportunity. More so than anything, Sunday is an opportunity to secure a spot.''
And given that, the Jaguars don't anticipate a letdown, a Pro Bowl hangover or anything else to affect their performance against the Raiders - especially with a postseason berth on the line.
``You don't want to have to bank on other people doing other things or having to scratch it out in the last game, even though if we have to, we'll do that,'' Jaguars quarterback David Garrard said. ``We'd like to do it on our own terms, and that is this weekend.''

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