At 3-6, the Jacksonville Sharks have run out of mulligans.
Winning the last nine regular-season games may not be enough to win the AFL American Conference South Division title for the fifth consecutive year.
But any more losses would move the Sharks from a difficult to a practically impossible situation.
“We are in a hole, a hole we dug ourselves,” Jacksonville coach Les Moss said as his team prepared to play the Tampa Bay Storm at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night. “We are the only ones to blame. We are the only ones who can make it right.”
The Sharks have lost four of their last five games, including a stunning 57-50 loss to division-leading Orlando last week on a 49-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown. The three-game lead by the Predators is even more daunting because Orlando already has a 2-0 record against Jacksonville this year, which means it would win a tiebreaker.
The Storm (3-6) is in the same predicament.
What frustrates the Sharks even more is they’ve lost three of four games by nine points or less.
“We keep finding ways to shoot ourselves in the foot,” linebacker Aaron Robbins said. “It’s really frustrating because I know we’re good. We get right on the verge of getting things going, but we find a way to mess it up. There are only so many mulligans.”
Tampa Bay lost quarterback Randy Hippeard to an injury two weeks ago. B.J. Hall replaced him last week and threw four interceptions in a 28-point loss to Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s R.J. Archer has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league despite the team’s slide.
He’s thrown 118 consecutive passes without an interception, dating to April 26.
He also has 22 touchdowns in that stretch.
The Sharks will need more of that if they’re going to make a second-half rally.
And without at least four losses by Orlando in the final nine games, it won’t matter how many games Jacksonville wins down the stretch.
“In my opinion, we have to win them all just to have a chance,” Robbins said of the final nine games. “Things haven’t gone our way. But we’ve got to find a way. We’ve run out of room for any more losses.”
The Sharks will have their final bye week after Saturday’s game. They will return home on June 7 to play the Spokane Shock.