What I think they’re thinking in the headquarters of the four AFC South teams on Monday.
That could have been a nice, restful weekend after a Thursday night game. Except we all tossed and turned the entire time, with nightmares of our play-calling in Indianapolis and the tipped Hail Mary in Jacksonville. We also daydreamed about a different result in winnable games against the Jets and Chargers. If just one of those four games came out differently, we’d have a real chance here with the Colts having a down season. But no, we’re at 5-7, a super long-shot for the division crown, shooting just to match last year’s record as we prepare for an angry Ravens team on Monday night.
Peyton Manning will say he’s not pressing and we’ll echo the sentiment. But Tony Dungy knows what’s going on here and he can, and has, said Manning is pressing. How else to explain all these interceptions? We needed him to carry us and he did. But the wheels are coming off now. This is our first three-game losing streak and first-six-loss season since 2002. Manning has 11 picks in three weeks. We’ll all look to him and see steady and unflinching, but maybe for the first we’ll wonder about what’s actually going on in his head and if there is any doubt there. We still have control, though, and the Titans can’t score with us. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
All the work, all the patience is paying off. Good teams come together and play their best in December, and we’re doing that. We’ve got as clear an identity as anyone in the division. We’re that tough, physical, run-it-down-your throat team. We can win on the road. We can win in the cold. We’ve got perspective and focus and while our hopes are about playing at home in the playoffs in January, we are locked in on Oakland at EverBank Field on Sunday. If we take care of the Raiders, we set up our biggest game in recent history the following Sunday at Indianapolis. Go ahead, overlook or dismiss us. We’re thriving on it.
We’re sapped. There is no getting around it. We’re not among the league’s biggest teams and we are getting worn down. We just got manhandled by the Jaguars, a team we pride ourselves on being able to beat in a physical battle. Perhaps there is some solace in a quick turn for a matchup with the Colts, because they are even smaller than us. Unfortunately, they’ve got a ticked off quarterback who’s been struggling and will be looking to pick us apart. Even if he throws picks, he’ll throw touchdowns. And it’s been 13 quarters since our offense was in the end zone for anything other than warm-ups.