Although I moved away from NE Florida during week one of the 2007 NFL season, I am still a diehard Jacksonville Jaguars fan. I didn't get to see them play on TV all that much this season, but I followed them nonetheless.
The Jaguars fit the profile of many of my favorite teams in various pro sports, in that they are a small market franchise. The smallest market in the league, in fact. So the Jags are a bit like my beloved Montreal Expos, except for the fact that they are still in existence.
In the last days of my Florida residency, coach Jack Del Rio made a bold move and named David Garrard the starting quarterback, and gave former #1 draft pick Byron Leftwich his walking papers, putting an end to number 7's disappointing tenure. Leftwich signed with Atlanta in the wake of Michael Vick's dogfighting indictment, and I got to see him play a few series in a mid-season game against Tennessee, and man, he stunk up the joint. Even if Garrard hadn't played as well as he did this year (QB rating over 100, only three interceptions), making him the #1 was the right move. Getting rid of Byron was genius.
Despite injuries to several key players - Mike Peterson, Marcus Stroud, Garrard - the Jags finished with a record of 11-5 and made the playoffs for only the second time in the last seven seasons. Saturday night, they held on to beat the Steelers 31-29 to advance to the next round.
Unfortunately, they have to go to Foxboro to play the Patriots, who only went 16-0 during the regular season. So, in order to earn the right to play in the AFC Championship Game, they have to beat the undefeated Patriots, one of the greatest teams in NFL history.
Unlikely, but not impossible.
And then, if they can pull that off, they would have to get by either LaDanian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers or Peyton Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts.
Again, not probable, but I think if they can beat New England (and they have as good a shot as anybody), they will win the Super Bowl.
That would be sweet.