During the bye week for the Jacksonville Jaguars, I usually don't watch much NFL football outside of the prime time games. I like to just take the weekend to reset myself from football and I usually get upset watching other teams function on Sunday's, given just how bad the Jaguars have been the past few years. This weekend however, I spent all Sunday playing Football Manager 16 and watching NFL football. Watching the full slate of games, one thing became pretty clear.
The AFC South is up for grabs and the Jaguars should take it.
The gap between the good NFL teams and the bad ones seems to be bigger than it's been a while. The AFC South in particular seemingly has no good teams. The team who's consistently owned the division, the Indianapolis Colts, are struggling to win games and dealing with injuries to Andrew Luck.
The Jaguars currently sit at 2-5 and pending the results of Monday Night Football, which I'm assuming the Carolina Panthers will win, should be a half game out of first place in the division. On the horizon are a bunch of games that should be winnable, but the Jaguars haven't exactly instilled confidence in fans that they can win them. They've been handed massive breaks early in the season and haven't been able to take advantage of them until the Buffalo Bills game in London, facing another backup quarterback.
I don't anticipate the AFC South being down like it is for much more than this season, and will probably be pretty open in 2016, but in 2016 I don't think 7-9 will win the division like it could this season. That fact makes the 2-5 for the Jaguars and the games they let slip away that much more frustrating when looking forward.
The team almost squandered their fourth fourth quarter lead in a row, but mayhaps that unnecessary comeback win against the Bills unlocked something.
Watching teams like the New York Jets, who probably will be starting a not healthy Geno Smith on Sunday, and the Baltimore Ravens I thought to myself, the Jaguars can beat these teams with how the offense has been playing. The offense has scored over 20 points the last three games and seems to be getting into a groove.
Regardless of your opinion on Gus Bradley as the head coach long term, we all know my thoughts, this team should still be able to rattle off some wins going forward because everything seems to be breaking their way. The Tennessee Titans appear to be a dumpster fire, the Houston Texans are up and down, close to disarray, and the Colts as mentioned are struggling.
The teams on the upcoming schedule continue to line up in favor of the Jaguars, just as the last four have. The Jets will be with a backup quarterback who's banged up and a banged up Brandon Marshall. The Baltimore Ravens have struggled on both sides of the ball and just lost Steve Smith for the season to a ruptured Achilles tendon.
After that the Jaguars come back home to face the Titans and the San Diego Chargers, the latter who will be their toughest opponent since facing the Patriots. Then you've got the Titans again, the Colts, the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. The team closes out with a trip to the Houston Texans.
There should be roughly five winnable games on the remainder of the schedule that the Jaguars can win. The problem is, I still have no confidence they will win them and Sunday's game against the Jets should prove a lot in that regard. This team has shown more the ability to squander opportunity to win against bad teams than it has to take advantage of them.
The biggest fear however, will be facing teams like the Ravens, Falcons, Chargers and Saints without anything resembling a pass rush. Sure, the Jaguars were able to blitz and pressure E.J. Manuel and will likely do that Sunday against Geno Smith, but it's a lot easier to bring extra rushers against those guys than against the quarterbacks of the teams just mentioned.
The AFC South is wide open. All it needs is for someone to take it.
The Jaguars should take it.