Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Consider Expectations on Jaguars as a Plus

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Consider Expectations on Jaguars as a Plus

Article excerpt

You may think the Jacksonville Jaguars would be better off in

1997 if they could assume their previous identity. You know,

that image of being a dangerous team with its scrambling

quarterback, but one NFL contenders didn't take seriously

because, well, the Jags would ultimately beat themselves.

Success appears to come easier when you can still wear that

cloak of anonymity, when nobody sees you as a lethal weapon

growing championship teeth.

But with the Jaguars fresh off those cold-war conquests at

Buffalo and Denver -- and one ooops! pass from possibly going to

the Super Bowl -- the juicy little secret is out: the men in

teal are for real.

Now, for the first time in history, they enter a season

regarded as much as the hunted as the hunter. Football magazines

and media pundits are putting a target on the Jaguars' back.

Athlon and Pro Football already have picked Jacksonville to win

the AFC Central. The Sporting News pro football yearbook, which

comes out July 8, also picks the Jaguars to wrest the crown from

the three-time defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Even Peter King, a Sports Illustrated heavyweight, has come

down with a case of Jag-itis. He went so far recently as to not

only make Jacksonville a division favorite, but likes

quarterback Mark Brunell to win the league's Most Valuable

Player award.

Uh, Peter. Did you forget the guy up in Green Bay who kept

Brunell on the bench for two years? The one with the rocket arm,

the one who led his team to a Super Bowl title, the one who had

an NFC-record 39 touchdown passes last season?

Apparently not. King still favors Brunell to beat out Brett

Favre for MVP. He's part of an expanding media stampede that

views Jacksonville's 1996 season-ending metamorphosis as a

telltale sign of future greatness. Not that the Jaguars are a

consensus AFC favorite, but they've clearly moved into that

cluster of three or four teams projected to have Super Bowl

credentials.

"With the expectations being put on us, we're not going to

sneak up on anybody any more," said Jaguars running back Natrone

Means. …

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