The Jacksonville Jaguars have everything they need to advance deep into the playoffs this year — a league-leading run game, a defense playing at an elite level with no noticeable weaknesses...
Well, almost everything.
If Blake Bortles can’t stop turning the ball over and losing his rhythm in the passing game as soon as he finds it, the Jaguars will find themselves out of the tournament as quickly as this week.
But what else do the Jaguars need to make a serious run to the Super Bowl?
1. The run game needs to come back
The Jaguars led the league this regular season with an astounding 141.4 yards per game. But that came largely on the front end of the schedule. In the last six games of the season, the team has eclipsed 100 total rushing yards just twice. Compare that with the first 10 games when they had just one sub-100 yard game.
Leonard Fournette has been held under 20 rush attempts in each of the last two games, hopefully in an effort to keep him as fresh as possible for a Buffalo Bills run defense that is 29th in the league, giving up 124.6 yards per game.
2. The defense needs to stop giving up big plays
This defense doesn’t break down often, but even one in a game is backbreaking to a team whose offense operates on a razor thin margin of error.
Last week it was Marcus Mariota to Derrick Henry for a 66-yard screen.
The week before that it was a 44-yard catch by San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Against the Arizona Cardinals it was a 52-yard touchdown by Jaron Brown.
The Los Angeles Rams returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire both had touchdown runs of 69 yards and 75 yards, respectively.
In every loss, there is at least one breakdown by the defense that results in a big play by the other team. That happens frequently in this league, even to defenses as good as the Jaguars. But this offense can’t afford it and they need all the help they can get.
3. Blake Bortles needs to stop Blake Bortles-ing
Bortles has not been good the past two weeks. His three interceptions against the 49ers was the most he’s had in a single game since Week 3 of the 2016 season and his 44.1 completion percentage against the Titans was the second-worst of the year.
If the run game can’t get going and his receivers fumble away opportunities again this week, I don’t know what the answer is for Blake but it’s not putting the team on his shoulders and trying to win by himself. That hasn’t worked well over his four-year career.
Bortles is very good running the ball. He’s even better in the red zone. He’s managed to avoid sacks consistently (although he had an embarrassing one last week). He can win this week and he has the ability to manage the game away from a loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. He just has to take a deep breath and stop thinking he has to do it all on his own.