Jags ready for Pats and cold weather


Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
It comes as no surprise to the Jacksonville Jaguars that they're the underdog in tonight's AFC Wild Card game against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
But let's just say they're not putting a lot of faith in somebody else telling them they're supposed to lose by 7 points, which technically isn't even possible - Doug Flutie drop kick or not.
Jacksonville defensive end Paul Spicer describes oddsmakers as a "bunch of old guys, maybe some young guys," sitting around a boardroom poring over their statistics sheets and injury reports before coming up with a number.
What they don't measure is a team's heart.
"Hey, they've got all the backing. Everybody's looking at this as just a warm-up game for the Patriots," Spicer said. "But I'm going to tell you right now, we're not going up there as the Little Sisters of St. Mary's - just there to show up.
"No, it ain't gonna happen like that. The Patriots understand, if they've been watching our film, we're a team that's hard-nosed and we're going to go out and get after them no matter what."
New England understands, all right. You don't win three of the past four Super Bowls by overlooking your next opponent - especially one with a better record.
And while both teams have spent the week talking about feeling disrespected by the national media, they have been quite flattering of each other.
"The more film I've watched on Jacksonville and the closer you look at it, the more impressed I am with them," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters this week. "I think that Jack (Del Rio) has done a great job of building that team. It fits his personality. It's very aggressive. They are a very physical team."
A team Del Rio believes is built to play in the kind of cold weather that will pervade Gillette Stadium. The forecast doesn't call for snow, but temperatures will be in the 20s by game time.
That's OK with the Jaguars, who believe their stable of running backs - Fred Taylor, Greg Jones, LaBrandon Toefield and Alvin Pearman - can wear down the Patriots defense. And they've got plenty of confidence in their defense, which ranks sixth in the NFL.
The Jaguars (12-4) have spent the week doing what most teams playing the Patriots (10-6) have done. In their estimation, New England quarterback Tom Brady is the best around - particularly come playoff time.
Brady not only owns three rings, he's also got the lowest interception percentage in playoff history with a mark of 0.99, which breaks down to three interceptions in 304 attempts.
"He's a guy that always finds ways to make plays," Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich said. "That's pretty much what you want from your quarterback - a guy that never seems to make mistakes. It's exciting for me to have the opportunity to go out and compete against the guy.
"To me, he's the best quarterback in football right now, as far as what he's done."
Jacksonville was actually the last team to beat the Patriots in the playoffs. But that was in 1999 - the last time the Jaguars even made it to the postseason.
The edge in playoff experience will be decidedly in New England's favor, but mention that to the Jaguars and while they do acknowledge it, they also simply shrug their shoulders.
"The only way to learn how to win in the playoffs is to win," Leftwich said. "Four years ago, they were in the same situation we're in."
If the Jaguars don't seem to be caught up in the moment, it's because Del Rio won't let them.
As tight end Kyle Brady said, the only thing different about the field for this game is that it will have a playoff logo spray-painted on it.
Other than that, the coach doesn't want to hear anything different, and will actually stop practice if he needs to get his point across to younger players.
"Jack, he's one of those guys that will definitely remind you," Spicer said. "If he feels something, he'll stop and say it. He's not one of those coaches who's going to wait until an inopportune time.
"When you have a lot of young players, hey, their attention span is not all the best right now. They've got to understand the importance of preparing for a team that has been one of the best teams in the last 10 years."
Spicer, who wore a cast on his left hand, vowed to play even though he is listed as questionable. Linebacker Mike Peterson (wrist) is also questionable and would be a huge loss for the defense if he can't play.
There has been talk - in the media, of course - that New England didn't try hard to win its final regular-season game against Miami because it wanted to draw Jacksonville in the first round, rather than to face a hot Pittsburgh team.
But that's all well and good to the Jaguars. Because they plan to put the champs to the test.
"It wouldn't surprise me," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said of the notion the Patriots wanted to play the Jaguars. "My thing is, when you try to pick the easier route throughout the playoffs that's when, hey, things don't go your way. I don't care who they put in front of us."

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