The 2017 NFL Draft is still weeks away but that hasn’t stopped Football Outsiders to put their stamp on their way-too-early predictions for the season — and the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to turn themselves around faster than most anyone thinks.
According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars will be 8-8 by season’s end and lose a tiebreaker to the Tennessee Titans for a home playoff game in January.
1. Tennessee Titans: 8-8 (8.1 mean wins; SOS: 29)
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8 (7.5 mean wins; SOS: 30)
3. Indianapolis Colts: 7-9 (6.6 mean wins; SOS: 28)
4. Houston Texans: 6-10 (6.1 mean wins; SOS: 10)
This will continue to be the worst division in the NFL, but at least Tennessee and Jacksonville seem like teams on the rise. The Titans ranked 15th in our DVOA ratings last season, best in the AFC South, and they've made some strong free-agent additions on defense. So has Jacksonville, and the Jaguars project to have a top-10 defense, but there's no reason to expect the offense to get any better.
Houston might have won the division last season, but the Texans ranked a dismal 29th in our DVOA ratings. That first-place finish doesn't do the Texans any schedule favors, because there's a big difference between playing the Patriots and playing the other AFC East teams. The quarterback position is a colossal question mark, which is enough to outweigh a defensive projection that gives the Texans a boost with the return of J.J. Watt. Meanwhile, the Colts continue to experiment with just how much a bad defense can fritter away the prime years of a good quarterback.
There’s a lot to take away from these predictions.
Starting with the Jaguars, I don’t see 8-8. I just don’t see a locker room that was, in many ways, irreparably damaged by Gus Bradley squeaking out a non-losing season so quickly after he’s gone, not to mention with largely his same top guys still in charge. The culture is bad and cutting out Bradley hasn’t fixed the root problems.
Will improvements come this year? Absolutely. I firmly believe we’ll be better than 3-13. Will it be 8-8 and down to the wire for a playoff spot? I don’t think so. Not with Blake Bortles as our quarterback.
The Titans winning the AFC South is a good bet as well. Marcus Mariota is the best quarterback in the division, they have the best offensive line, they have the best running game, and a defense that won’t lose them games. That’s how you win the worst division in football — and I think they do it by a game or two, honestly.
The Texans going 6-10? I can’t see it. I can see them falling off with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum battling it out for quarterback, but that defense is so, so good. They have to win more than six games, right?
And the Colts. I see the bottom dropping out this year. That roster is horrendous. Andrew Luck is getting worse. If they’re the ones getting five or six wins next year, I wouldn’t be surprised.
What do you think? Anything else you’d like to throw in for these way-too-early 2017 season predictions?