On the surface, the matchup appears difficult.
The Jaguars, a week removed from a one-sided loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, on Sunday will play the Chicago Bears, a team that on Monday looked very impressive in an equally one-sided, nationally televised victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
And make no mistake:
The Bears may not be the trendiest pick for the Super Bowl, but they’re a talented team capable of winning the NFC, with a quarterback-receiver tandem – Jay Cutler/
The Bears will be favored, and few will give the Jaguars a chance, but in the NFL those two elements – not to mention a difficult matchup – often don’t mean a thing.
The Jaguars are a young team with a largely new coaching staff. They have a young quarterback with a new offense, and often in the NFL those things need time to come together. Young teams often need something to go their way, for someone to make a play, to get things turned around.
That last part has been a theme of Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey this week, and with reason.
The Jaguars have lost three of four games, but Mularkey knows from experience difficult starts don’t have to mean difficult finishes. His first team in Buffalo in 2004 went 0-4 and 1-5 before finishing 9-7, with the offense taking hold late in the season. When Mularkey spoke this week about what the Jaguars need, he talked about guys needing to make big plays in big situations.
That’s what needs to happen for the Jaguars this week. They need a turnover to go their way. They need something to believe in. It came oh-so-close to happening early against Cincinnati, with the Jaguars twice having potential defensive touchdowns slip away.
A play or two like that can change momentum. A play or two like that can turn a difficult matchup into a different game than many expect. In the NFL, those plays must be made, so look for that to continue to be a focus for this staff, and for a team that needs something to go its way.
The Bears were overlooked before the season by many analysts, mainly because they missed the postseason last year after having a legitimate chance for the Super Bowl a season before. But the Bears are good, and they showed why in a Monday night victory over the Cowboys. When Cutler is good, he’s very good and when Marshall is good, the tandem of Marshall and Cutler is as dangerous as any in the NFL. The Bears’ lone loss this season was to Super Bowl contender Green Bay, and as is usually the case, Chicago is a dangerous defensive team that can create turnovers quickly enough to turn games around in a hurry. On Monday, they intercepted Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo five times and returned two for touchdowns in a 34-18 victory. One area of concern for the Bears is they are playing a road game Sunday following a Monday night road game. That’s a difficult situation, and teams rarely perform as well on Sunday in that situation as they did the previous Monday.
The game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville will be broadcast regionally on FOX and locally on WAWS (Channel 30) with Kenny Albert on play-by-play, Daryl Johnston on analysis and Tony Siragusa working the sideline.
Early matchup to watch
Jaguars offensive tackle
Player to watch
* The Jaguars struggled on the offensive line against Cincinnati, allowing six sacks with Gabbert being hit as he threw at least that many more times. Gabbert also had to scramble several times. Interior pass protection was an issue, and
* Wide receiver
* The Jaguars overall are getting healthier, with linebacker