For a team that can’t sell out its stadium, the Jacksonville
Jaguars are enjoying an awfully nice home-field advantage of
A sixth straight home win Sunday would allow the Jaguars to keep
a leg up in the AFC wild-card race, but the Miami Dolphins can
bolster their own playoff hopes as they visit Jacksonville
Municipal Stadium for the first time in more than six years.
The Jaguars (7-5) haven’t sold out a home game in their
67,164-seat venue this season, averaging more than 21,000 empty
seats and seeing a season-low 42,079 fans in the stands for their
game against Houston last Sunday.
The sparse crowds haven’t hurt Jacksonville on the field,
however. The Jaguars have won five in a row at home after David
Garrard’s 238 yards passing and two touchdowns led them to a 23-18
win over the Texans.
That victory has Jacksonville in sole possession of the AFC’s
No. 6 seed – one game behind 8-4 Denver, but with four teams –
including 6-6 Miami – chasing it for that final spot.
“It feels good,” said receiver Mike Sims-Walker, who has a
team-high 752 yards and six touchdowns but was held to one catch
for 12 yards against Houston. “We’re happy to be in a position to
play in January. There’s not many teams that have hope to be
thinking about the playoffs right now. We control everything. We’re
in full control of whatever we want to do. It feels good, but we’re
The Jaguars boast a 6-2 conference record, which could be a huge
difference-maker should that final spot come down to a two- or
three-team tie-break scenario. They’ll know much more about their
chances of making a third postseason appearance in five years after
visits from Miami on Sunday and undefeated Indianapolis on Thursday
With Jacksonville’s playoff prospects looking promising, fans
appear to be taking notice. Only 9,000 tickets for this game were
left unsold as of early this week, and the team is optimistic at
least one of the final two games will be sold out. That would lift
the NFL’s local television blackout of the game for the first time
Regardless of who’s watching, the Jaguars don’t need any extra
incentive, particularly against one of their wild-card
“It’s going to be an in-state rivalry. It’s going to be like a
best-friends brawl,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew told the
Jaguars’ official Web site. “Watching them play on tape heightens
everybody’s sense of awareness.”
Jones-Drew, who’s battling a knee injury, and Miami running back
Ricky Williams will likely be the focal point of their respective
offenses considering the Dolphins rank fourth (150.4 yards per
game) and the Jaguars seventh (130.5) in rushing yards.
But Williams, who’s averaging 5.0 yards per carry and is tied
for fourth in the league with nine TDs, took a backseat to
quarterback Chad Henne and the passing game last Sunday against New
England. The Dolphins were forced to throw the ball after falling
behind 14-0 early in the second quarter and Henne responded,
passing for a career-high 335 yards and two scores in the 22-21
“The guy just keeps bouncing back,” Dolphins coach Tony Sparano
said. “I love the kid because his demeanor doesn’t change at all.
He could throw a touchdown pass, he could bring it down the field
in the fourth quarter, or he can throw one to the other team –
whatever, this guy’s demeanor just doesn’t change. He’s rock-solid
Despite each team’s preference for its ground game, this contest
may come down to whichever quarterback can make more plays
downfield. Jacksonville’s defense is 23rd against the pass (242.1
ypg) and Miami’s is 24th (242.9).
The Jaguars may be more likely to succeed through the air,
largely because of Garrard’s play at home. He’s thrown nine of his
10 touchdown passes in leading Jacksonville to a 5-1 record at
home, and he has a 95.4 passer rating at Jacksonville Municipal
Though the Jaguars have been tough to beat at home, Sparano is
just happy to have his team in the mix for a postseason berth after
an 0-3 start.
“I like knowing that you have a chance, and like knowing there
are some teams right now not playing for very much, and we have a
chance,” Sparano said. “We are going to try to do everything in
our power to make this the best run we can make it.”
The teams last met in 2006, a 24-10 Jaguars win in south
Florida. They haven’t met in Jacksonville since a 24-10 Miami
victory three years earlier.