The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially kicked off 2018 training camp, which means football season is here and live game-action is not too far away.
The Jaguars are a confident bunch, and why shouldn’t they be? The team has one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. It possesses perhaps the best defensive unit in the league, and the offense, including a poised Blake Bortles and a leaner Leonard Fournette, seems ready for a dominant season. Malik Jackson predicts a 16-0 season and Telvin Smith feels that Jacksonville is the best team in the entire league.
In Smith’s case, it’s more of a confidence over cockiness thing, as he feels that it is important to have that kind of faith in his team in order for them to be the best. I have no issue with that. However, where the Jaguars need to be careful as a team is not buying too much into the hype. For example, Jackson’s 16-0 take seems, at a minimum, far-fetched.
Are you with me so far? The rest of this article is going to sound pretty cliché, but just bear with me and hear me out.
It is important to remember that the Jaguars face some of the NFL’s top teams this season. Jacksonville plays the other three AFC division winners from 2017: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. Oh, and let’s not forget, the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and the entire NFC East. Many experts also expect the AFC South rivals to be healthier and better this year.
All of these teams mentioned above are formidable foes. But guess what? The Jaguars, if healthy, possess all of the tools necessary to beat any of them, including the Patriots and the Eagles (in London). But where this team may falter is buying into all of the headlines that it is the best team in the league, a potential Super Bowl winner, going 16-0, etc.
This is the first time in years that we, as fans, feel confident that the Jaguars will be a serious contender. And we absolutely should. I am not discounting that or even disagreeing with that, but rather bringing up an alternative viewpoint.
The NFL has far too much parity in it for the Jaguars to be a sure thing. Think about this: Eight of the 12 teams in the playoffs last season were not in the playoffs in the 2016-2017 season. That includes five of the six NFC teams in the dance last season, and the eventual Super Bowl champions. So much changes for teams from season-to-season: free agent additions, draft picks, injuries, players returning from injuries from the previous year, strength of schedule and more are all factors to consider.
Teams like the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks were all expected to be locks for the playoffs a season ago. None of them made it in. That is just the way it goes.
Health was also a huge factor for the Jaguars’ success last year. The dominant defensive unit remained largely intact throughout all 16 games and the playoffs. The only notable injury was Allen Robinson on the first drive of the season, which the Jaguars were able to maneuver around due to a strong ground attack. Will the Jaguars remain that healthy in 2018? I certainly hope so, but it is not something that happens often.
My point is, the Jaguars can play with anybody in this league. They’re that talented and confident. However, if players are buying into the headlines and media craze, and think they can coast through the season, it may not end well. With that said, I believe the Jaguars will remain a focused, hard-working bunch, as head coach Doug Marrone has preached all offseason long. So please don’t misconstrue my words for something they’re not. Instead, realize that nothing is guaranteed for this team, or any team, for that matter.
For these reasons, I believe the toughest opponent for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018 is, well, the Jacksonville Jaguars.