Jaguars News | Jacksonville Jaguars - jaguars.comJohn Oehser
JACKSONVILLE - The eyes remain very much on the prize.
The prize is the postseason - and as the Jaguars returned from their Week 11 bye Monday, the tone around TIAA Bank Field was clear: The prize is the goal, and it's still attainable.
"That's the culture we've built and that's the culture we're building," wide receiver Christian Kirk said as the Jaguars (3-7) prepared to play the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens (7-3) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. "Everybody's believing and nobody's cashing it in."
The Jaguars, after leading the AFC South at 2-1, lost five consecutive games before a Week 9 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. A 27-17 Week 10 road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs a week before the bye marked the Jaguars' lone loss this season by more than a score and was the only time in the first 10 games the Jaguars did not lead.
The Jaguars enter their final seven games third in the AFC South behind the Tennessee Titans (7-3) and Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1) and ahead of the Houston Texans (1-8-1). They play Tennessee twice in final seven games and visit Houston.
"We have to win the division," Jaguars defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot said. "We know the games we have to win. We have to beat the Titans. We have to beat the Texans. We're definitely optimistic about the future, for sure."
The Jaguars, who rank eighth in the NFL in yards and 19th in points, also rank 23rd in yards allowed and 14th in points allowed. And while they remain focused on the postseason, their schedule on paper becomes more difficult. Four of their first 10 opponents currently have winning records: Washington (6-5), Philadelphia (9-1), the New York Giants (7-3) and Kansas City (8-2). Five of their final seven games are against such teams: Baltimore, the New York Jets (6-4), the Dallas Cowboys (7-3) and Tennessee twice.
Running back Travis Etienne Jr. said the focus overall will be "mindset and execution," adding that, "We have to win in order to get into the playoffs."
"Every game is a season of its own," said Etienne, who rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the final four game before the bye. "If we're going to get where we want to be in January, we can't take any week for granted. We have to go out there and execute and finish.
"We have to let our belief in each other shine. That's what's going to get us over this hump."
Said Kirk, "That's the first goal we talked about when we got in the building together - one, winning our division; two, getting to the playoffs. That's where everybody wants to go. That's how you keep going to work: You work hard, work your tail off and go out and play on Sunday.
"This group as a collective wants to make it to the postseason. That's our goal. We're going to keep working toward that."
Etienne on the Week 11 bye: "The bye just kind of gives your mind a break. At this point everybody's body is tired. You're mentally and physically tired, but you're a football player and we've been doing this our whole life. We know how to get over that hump."
Smoot: "The bye definitely came at a good time. We're 11 weeks in. I'm happy it did come later and not earlier. We were able to get all the hurt out. Now