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Jacksonville’s playoff hopes are slim, but not dead

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NFL: International Series-Philadelphia Eagles at Jacksonville Jaguars Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Well, for the first time in seemingly forever, the Jacksonville Jaguars had some lofty expectations entering the 2018 season — both from the franchise itself and the fans. Fast forward through the first eight weeks of the 2018 NFL season, and Jacksonville finds itself with a 3-5 record following this past Sunday’s 24-18 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in London.

Suffice it to say, this is not the start that anybody had in mind for the Jaguars. After a 3-1 start to the season, the Jags have now dropped four straight games for a variety of reasons. A lot has been said about Jacksonville’s playoff chances now that the team is two games under .500, but while its chances are slim, it’s not an impossible feat. The club is far from being mathematically eliminated.

If my manual research is correct, then there have been 14 teams that have started 3-5 (or 3-5-1 in the case of the 2014 Carolina Panthers) that have made the playoffs since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990. It has been accomplished by five teams in the previous five seasons.

The last time this happened was in 2015, when both the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans made the playoffs following a 3-5 start. Actually, the Chiefs started the season 1-5 and reeled off 10 straight wins to finish 11-5 — anything is possible in the NFL.

The Jaguars are actually one of the teams that are on this list. In 1996, Jacksonville started 3-5 (well, actually 3-6) and went on to not only make the playoffs, but win two playoff games. With that said, the Jags have started 3-5 in four additional seasons, and failed to make the postseason in any of those years.

The Jaguars are technically still “in the hunt” for the 2018 playoffs, and the AFC South could still be won. Jacksonville still has four divisional games left, including two contests against the Indianapolis Colts and one game each left versus the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. The Texans are currently in sole possession of first place with a 5-3 record.

Jacksonville’s best shot at the playoffs is winning the division. According to Playoffstatus.com, the Jags have just a 10 percent probability of making it into the first round of the postseason. However, the website shows just a one percent chance of making it in as the No, 5 seed (first Wild Card spot) and just a three percent chance of making it in as the No. 6 seed (second Wild Card spot). The chances bump up a little bit to four percent for the No. 4 seed (last-ranked division winner). There is also a two percent chance for the No. 3 seed, while the No. 1 and 2 seeds both show less than a one percent probability. Any way you slice it, it doesn’t look too promising, but it’s not hopeless.

So, it has been done before, and it is not out of the questions to start 3-5 and enter postseason play. With that said, a lot needs to change with this Jaguars team in order to get there. Let’s hope the issues on the field, and the focus and cohesion in the locker room, are fixed during the bye week. It will be interesting to see how the final half of the season shakes out for the Jaguars and the rest of the AFC South.