Playoff-hopeful Cardinals must avoid Jaguars' trap

Cardinals beware: In parity-rich NFL, no game is automatic, even against woeful Jaguars.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- During the Buccaneers' infamous 0-14 season in 1976, coach John McKay delivered one of his many memorable quips, of which there are a couple versions. 

"We've determined we can’t win at home, we can’t win on the road, so we're going to petition the league for a neutral site.”

This season's Jaguars won't have to worry about that. They finally broke through in Week 10 in Nashville, Tenn., defeating the Titans 29-27 to post their first win on Nov. 10. But the Jaguars (1-8) still haven't sniffed a win at EverBank Field in northeastern Florida this season, making them the butt of jokes around the NFL.

Jacksonville has scored a total of 21 points in its four home games. You read that right. That's an average of 5.25 per game. That helps explain how a defense some feel is pretty good is still near the bottom of the NFL in most statistical categories.

"When I look at them, I see a lot of what happened to us last year," Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein said. "Their defense is strong and plays well, but they get tired in the second half because the offense doesn't move the ball and struggles to stay on the field. 

"That doesn't mean they're a bad team. I didn't think we were a bad team last year, but so many of those factors create wins and losses in this league, and the difference between the two is really small."

The latter lesson is one the Cardinals would do well to remember in the parity-rich, rags-to-riches NFL. Yesterday's doormat is today's playoff team, and the Cardinals are a pretty good example as they look to improve to 6-4 on the heels of a 5-11 season. To accomplish that, and to keep their postseason hopes alive, they can't afford to overlook the Jaguars.

"This is a playoff game for us," receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "You look at the teams that are in the hunt for a playoff spot, it's a tight race. 

"There's no such thing as a trap game to me in the NFL. Everybody can get beat."

Jacksonville's offensive struggles and Arizona's surging defense would seem enough of a mismatch to ensure a Cardinals victory. Defensive captain Darnell Dockett likes the progress of the unit, but he still has concerns.

"I played on some really good defenses, and I feel like this defense can be one of the best, but the camaraderie -- coming together as a brotherhood, not just 11 guys going out on Sunday -- that's what we're still kind of lacking," he said. "You know how that comes? Through adversity. We've lost some games, but we really haven't faced adversity."

As an example, Dockett cited the team's Super Bowl season, when a much-maligned defense rose to the occasion in the playoffs after some forgettable road performances during the regular season.

"We went to New York and got our ass kicked (56-35 by the Jets). That was adversity. We went to Philly and got our ass kicked (48-20 by the Eagles). That was adversity. Went to New England and got our ass kicked (47-7 by the Patriots). That was some big-ass adversity. But we were like, 'Man, this is (expletive). That's enough.' And we came together," he said.

"Everybody says, 'Ooh, I don't want no adversity!' But the best thing about adversity is how it brings you together. It either breaks you as a team or it brings you together.

"We haven't quite had that yet."

Maybe that will come at some point later this season. No disrespect to Dockett, but the hunch here is that a loss in Jacksonville isn't the kind of adversity the Cardinals need.

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