The Jacksonville Jaguars deserve your respect. Even after a loss to the Rams in Week 6, Jacksonville’s outlook is that of a 2017 playoff team. Everything points in that direction.
The first requirement to believing this train of thought is ignoring Blake Bortles. He isn’t good. He won’t become good. Yet that won’t prevent the Jaguars from making the postseason. If you haven’t noticed, the coaching staff is already taking the ball out of Bortles’ hand as much as modern football will allow. Out of every quarterback who has started six games to this point, Bortles ranks last in both attempts and completions.
That’s not to say the Jacksonville offense isn’t good. It is more like league-average thanks to a fearsome rushing attack. Leonard Fournette has been the third-best back in the league after Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley. But while Hunt has been trending down (albeit from historic to merely good), Fournette is getting better as the year progresses.
But what really keeps Jacksonville in the playoff hunt is the defense. The Jaguars have been the best defense in football by DVOA. They have forced the most turnovers, allow offenses to score on the second-fewest drives in the league, and allow fewer than five yards per play. Even after a loss to the Rams, the Jags’ elite team shows through. Most importantly, considering how the league is played in 2017, this unit is the best pass defense in football by such a wide margin, it’s ridiculous.
Football Outsiders DVOA numbers have yet to be updated through Week 6, but through five weeks, the Jags defense was 48 percent better than average defending the pass. The second-place team at that point was closer to ninth than it was to first! And all Jax did in Week 7 was hold Jared Goff to 11-of-21 passing and 124 yards, so don’t expect a change heading toward midseason.
Jacksonville doesn’t have the clearest path to the postseason, being stuck in the middle of a clogged AFC South at 3-3. However, it is the best team in this division. Not only does the defense shine through, but the team’s point differential is easily the best in the division. In fact, it’s one point shy of the best mark in the entire NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs have been one point better than Jacksonville.
Thanks to games against Houston, Tennessee, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and the Rams, this franchise has hardly had a pushover schedule either. It has been beating quality opponents since Week 1. The team’s biggest issue is closing out inferior opponents, as evidenced by its missed field goals that caused Jason Myers to lose his job.
But the rest of the year is lining up perfectly for this team to cruise to the finish. With 10 games still remaining, the Jaguars only play one team with a current record above .500. That easy schedule is buoyed by the fact that the team’s hardest divisional game (on the road at Houston) is already banked with a victory.
There is a lot of football still to play and a lot of crowding in the AFC playoff picture. Thanks to a carefully constructed offense, the best defense in the business, and an overly favorable schedule, the Jacksonville Jaguars are primed for their first postseason berth in a decade.