“The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to improve this year.”
It’s a tale as old as time. Year after year, we hear the national media claiming that this is the year things finally turn around in Jacksonville — and the 2017 offseason is no different.
Bill Barnwell wrote an extensive piece about the five NFL teams he thinks are the most likely to improve and (you guessed it!) your Jacksonville Jaguars top the list.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
Point differential: -82
Pythagorean expectation: 5.9 wins
Record in games decided by seven points or less: 2-8 (.200)
Strength of schedule: 0.497 (14th-easiest in NFL)
I'll forgive you if you're sick of hearing that the Jaguars are about to take a leap forward. The reality is that they've already taken two modest leaps forward. In 2015, they jumped from 3.7 expected wins to 6.4 wins, a mark they mostly maintained last season with those 5.9 Pythagorean-projected victories.
While it was a season with an ugly record, the poor results are mostly explained by that ugly 2-8 mark in games decided by one touchdown or less. You might attribute that to some element of a young Jaguars team not knowing "how to win," but the Jaguars were a totally unremarkable 9-10 in one-score games over the previous three seasons under Gus Bradley.
Teams that are really bad in one-touchdown games often improve the following season. The Jaguars are one of 68 teams between 1989 and 2015 to post a winning percentage of .200 or below in one-score contests. Those teams were a combined 67-377-1 (.152) during their ugly season. The following season, their record in one-score games was 239-289-1 (.453). Their overall win-loss record jumped by an average of three full wins.
This was brought up last month on the Setting The Edge podcast. The Jaguars have all the ingredients for a nearly fail-proof season as it pertains to not doing worse than they did the previous year.
Odds are the Jaguars will improve in the win column. Why? Because even one or two games on the wrong side of a coin flip means several slots higher in the draft, extra priority given to free agency investment and short-term success, and a coaching shake up that undoubtedly helps the underlying culture of an underperforming team that would have gone untreated for another season or two.
The average improvement in the 15 above teams is just under five additional wins. That means 7-9 with the arrow pointing up at the end of the season. But it could be as little as last year’s San Diego Chargers who managed just one extra win.
Take solace, Jaguars fans — a one-game improvement only happened once.
The most frequent improvement? Five wins.
If the Jaguars go 8-8 in 2017, I will levitate above EverBank Field, folks.