11-7-01, 2:35 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Now you know the apocalypse is upon us. On Wednesday, Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith actually said this.
"We're not very good right now," Smith said during a conference call with the Cincinnati media. "Cincinnati is a much better football team than we are and that's why they are where they are in the division and that's why we're dead last."
Smith read a stat Wednesday that surprised him a bit. The 2-5 Jaguars, who have the fourth best record in the NFL since 1997, have lost 15 of their last 27 games. In fact, the Jaguars, who lost four home games in the four seasons from '96-'99, are 6-6 in their last dozen games at ALLTEL Stadium and are 2-2 this season.
The Jags, who had a five-game losing streak in their first year of existence, are in another five-game spin after enduring one in last season's 7-9 season.
But the 4-3 Bengals simply aren't buying it. The last time they played the Jags when Jacksonville had a losing record was 1996, when none of their defensive starters were with the team.
Plus, the Bengals haven't won in ALLTEL since the Jags' first season in 1995 and Smith, wide receiver Keenan McCardell and quarterback Mark Brunell have lit it up this generation of Bengals.
Smith came into this season with 71 catches against the Bengals in 12 career games, his best against anyone.
"I don't think it's real," said Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins. "I don't think they believe that. They
haven't been winning, but they've been in situations in the last three weeks that they could have won games in the fourth quarter.
"They don't believe we're better than them," Hawkins said. "Especially with Mark, Jimmy and Keenan. I don't believe it."
Smith says it's been tough living with ultra intense head coach Tom Coughlin. He says "it's almost scary," the way the losing has impacted Coughlin.
"It's not fun at all," said Smith, who is still having another Pro Bowl year with 50 catches. "The last couple of years, (the Bengals) have been in that situation. We know how it feels and now that they're winning, they know how we felt the couple of years we were winning."
Bengals middle linebacker Brian Simmons isn't buying it, either.
"Even if they thought that, they wouldn't say that, Simmons said. "If we were sitting here 0-15 about to play a 15-0 team, I wouldn't come out and say, 'We're terrible.' They're still a dangerous team. It's just a matter of them getting some parts together and turning it around."