The Jacksonville Jaguars are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. You couldn’t say that a year ago. Heck, you couldn’t say it a decade ago. The roster wasn’t this strong, the coaching wasn’t this gifted, and the defense wasn’t this elite.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected Super Bowl odds: 3.1 percent
The Jaguars sneaked up on the NFL last season and came within a couple of questionable penalties of beating the Patriots and advancing to Super Bowl LII. They won’t have the element of surprise in 2018. The good news is that their roster might actually be better than it was last season by virtue of adding guard Andrew Norwell, who serves as a massive upgrade for a team hoping to run the ball down the opposition’s throat with leads in the second half. If the Jags can run the ball more efficiently with Leonard Fournette, they might not need very much out of Blake Bortles.
There’s little reason to think that Jacksonville’s dominant defense will decline outside of health, given that the Jags’ top 14 defenders combined to miss just three games last season. Even if they slip a bit, the Jacksonville formula under Tom Coughlin should be sustainable with some slight improvements from the running game. And as we saw eight months ago, the Jaguars are entirely capable of heading on the road against higher-profile teams and winning in the postseason.
Starting with the run game as the strength the Jaguars will lean on to make a deep postseason run is correct. Playoff games will be won or loss based on how much of the offensive burden the run game — and this offensive line — can carry. Not Blake Bortles. Not the receivers. The run game.
And the defense will most certainly need to do better than they did in the AFC Championship Game, and that includes the coaching staff and defensive coordinator Todd Wash. With a lead in the second half against the New England Patriots, the Jaguars went vanilla in their defensive play calls and paid a heavy price — and infamous third-and-18 conversion by Tom Brady and 14 points allowed in the fourth quarter.
What do you think? Did Barnwell miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!