When the Jacksonville Jaguars ran over the Houston Texans in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season, I wrote that they should snatch an AFC South division that clearly appeared to be up for grabs. At that time it appeared the Texans were making the switch to a rookie quarterback, which we all know comes with growing pains, and the Colts appeared to be without Andrew Luck for most of the season. The Tennessee Titans started in a hole and the Jaguars were in sole possession of first place.
Fast forward through Week 5 and it appears the Jaguars are in the driver’s seat with open road ahead of them. Now, the Los Angeles Rams appear better than most thought before the season started, but after their Week 6 home game against the Rams the Jaguars schedule really opens up.
Not only does the schedule seem to soften, but the other teams in the division keep dropping games and they keep losing talented players. While Deshaun Watson keeps getting better each week and is keeping Houston in games, he’s still a rookie and I don’t think he can carry a team who keeps losing defensive stars. J.J. Watt is out for the season with a nasty leg injury and Whitney Mercilus is also down for the year with a torn pectoral. The two most impact players on a Texans defense that was already shaky are now gone.
The Tennessee Titans will be without Marcus Mariota for a few weeks and their backup quarterback situation is a dumpster fire. Even with Mariota they seemed to be a little Jekyll and Hyde week-to-week. The Colts have gotten some pretty good play from Jacoby Brissett, but their overall roster just isn’t good enough without Luck to play above their heads. Luck might be back this season, but how good can he really be and will it be too late?
The Jaguars aren’t without their warts, which is the passing game on offense. The Jaguars are built to drag that anchor across the finish line however, it just depends on how much the defense can generate and how efficient the run game is with rookie Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars ideal game plan bore out on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is never throw the ball.
Ultimately for the Jaguars to be successful and win football games, they’ll need to generate turnovers and mitigate the play of the quarterback as much as possible. I’m not sure how long they can balance on that, but we saw on Sunday when the ball gets rolling it’s hard to stop. Even with the turnover (which actually wasn’t Blake Bortles’ fault), the ball was already moving down hill at an unstoppable pace.
The state of the division makes it so the Jaguars should be the favorite going forward, as long as the offense doesn’t turn the ball over multiple times and can at least score a few points. It’s very similar to the 2015 season, when the dominoes kept falling and trying to hand the Jaguars the division crown, but I think in 2017 they’re much better equipped, both personnel and coaching-wise, to take advantage of it.