Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 15, 2018 at 12:24 am.

Jaguars know margin of error razor thin

Are the Jacksonville Jaguars taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers at a good time or a bad time this Sunday when the Steelers make a visit to TIAA Bank Field?

Jacksonville is in the midst of a five-game losing streak and is on the verge of losing any hope of a repeat trip to postseason play. That’s a colossal disappointment after the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game a year ago where they lost a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in falling to the New England Patriots. The week before that game, Jacksonville pinned a 45-42 defeat on Pittsburgh at Heinz Field to match the win that the Jaguars had earlier in the season at the same locale.

Two wins on the Steelers’ home turf should give the Jaguars confidence that they can play with the AFC North Division leaders. But it’s also likely that the Steelers will be coming to town on Sunday with revenge on their mind. Losing twice to a team on their home field in the same year has only happened twice in Steelers history and Jacksonville can claim both feats (2007, 2018).

Defensive end Calais Campbell knows the Jaguars are in a must-win situation. Only four teams in the modern-Super Bowl era have started a season with a 3-6 record and managed to make the playoffs that season. The 1996 Jaguars are one of the four. That season, the team’s second year as an NFL franchise, they won six of their final seven games to not only make the playoffs, but advance all the way to the AFC Championship Game where they lost to New England.

“Our margin for error is zero. Our backs are against the wall but we have the ability to do something special,” Campbell said. “We have to bury the past and just look forward. With our team, our coaches and the way we prepare, I don’t see why we can’t make it happen. Put the past behind us and take it one day at a time, we can make it happen.”

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson said the Jaguars have to put all those past thoughts out of mind and just worry about their own situation.

“We’ve got to win this. We can’t worry about who the opponent is,” Jackson said. “We know they are good but we need to fix our problems. We’re looking at fixing some things internally and that’s what we’re doing. It’s not hard to get motivated.”

The Steelers likely feel they got a break when the Jaguars lost the opportunity to have the game appear on NBC’s national TV Sunday night package. The game fell under the flex-option by the league and the network and with the Jaguars in a five-game losing streak, the game was “flexed” back to a 1 p.m. start compared to an 8:20 start. That helps the Steelers on two fronts. It prevents the Jaguars crowd from getting extra-hyped knowing they were the feature game on national TV, and it means the Steelers will be returning home seven hours earlier than they originally had anticipated.

Had the game been played in prime time, the Steelers would have arrived in the early hours on Monday morning. Instead it will be a comfortable return flight home that will touch down well before midnight.

“We would have loved to play this game in prime time and let the whole world see you but I understand why we’re not there,” Campbell said.

SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Jaguars lead series, 12-11. It’s been a series that has gone in streaks. Starting in 2001, the Steelers won three straight, then Jacksonville won four in a row. That was followed by Pittsburgh winning three straight and now it’s Jacksonville on a two-game win streak. Jaguars own a 7-5 edge in games on their own field. Last time the teams met was in last year’s playoffs with the Jaguars edging the Steelers 45-42 on the latter’s home field. Jacksonville also won in the regular season (30-9), marking just the second time ever that the Steelers have lost twice at home to the same team in a season. Jaguars also did in 2007, beating the Steelers on their field in both the regular season and the playoffs.