Projecting wins months before the season begins is tricky business. You never know which prospect will have a major meltdown, which quarterback will go down with an injury, or which mid-round rookie will surprise enough in preseason to earn the starting nod.
In that spirit, ESPN looked at which NFL teams they were more or less optimistic in than Vegas and the Jacksonville Jaguars are one of just two teams in which they’re more optimistic than Vegas on.
Over/under: 6.5 (as low as 5.5) | Our projection: 7.7
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the AFC South, the Jaguars were shackled to a parade of Blake Bortles interceptions that masked just how good their defense became last year. The development of Jalen Ramsey into a star cornerback over the second half of the season raised the tide for everyone else on the field. Not only will the Jaguars add corner A.J. Bouye from the Texans, they'll also break in young linebacker Myles Jack with a full-time role. The system doesn't see much reason to expect a decline with all the talented youth on hand. In fact, it looks at a unit that was last in turnovers per drive last season and expects improvement. Keep in mind, the Jaguars underperformed their Pythagorean wins last year by 2.8 and went just 2-8 in one-score games.
Furthermore, with Leonard Fournette in tow, the Jaguars may have a shot at the offensive identity former head coach Gus Bradley always wanted. Our projection for their offense falls somewhere between last year's disaster and 2015's low-key breakout. And the cherry on top of it all? We have the Jaguars with the second-easiest schedule in the NFL next season.
But, again, betting on the Jaguars to beat their win total is a bet on Bortles to not be a complete disaster in 2017. If 2015 was a total mirage rather than something the Jaguars' passing game can aspire to repeat, our projection might look silly in a few months.
I want this to be correct. I think ESPN makes some valid points — a good defense was just upgraded, their coaching staff was just upgraded, their running backs were just upgraded, their offensive identity looks more clear — but it all rests on Blake Bortles’ shoulders and he’s coming off a horrendous 2016 campaign.
Until Bortles is good, he’s bad. And while he’s bad, this team will be much closer to five wins than eight.
What do you think? Are you closer to ESPN’s projections of 7.7 wins or Vegas’ projections of 5.5?
Who do you think will end up being right about the Jaguars?
This poll is closed
Vegas: 5.5 wins
ESPN: 7.7 wins