The Jacksonville Jaguars are playing a sixth round rookie quarterback in Gardner Minshew.
Jalen Ramsey is providing the most excitement off the field during any season I’ve ever covered this team.
And their front office lead — Tom Coughlin, the man who built this franchise from scratch, sank it with poor salary cap management, and has been tasked with an encore — is on the hot seat.
But you know what else? This team caught some breaks with their next six games.
In my preseason win-loss predictions, I had the Jaguars at 2-1 at this point... and if not for an errant two-point play call that could be the case. Gardner Minshew’s production up to this point has been largely what we hoped for out of Nick Foles, the defense has been stifling, and the run game has been largely ineffective.
What else is new?
So even with all those issues, the Jaguars are a few inches away from being right where we expected them to be at this point in the season.
Their opponents, however, are a very different story.
Week 4: @ Denver Broncos
The defense is good enough with an average offense (although they haven’t registered a single sack or interception!) but that offense is bad, folks. Joe Flacco is averaging just 7.0 yards per attempt alongside an average of less than one touchdown a game. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who have put a respectable 333 yards and 4.1 yards per carry through three games combined are volume backs. They have one rushing play of 20+ yards between them.
First to 17 points wins this game and the Jaguars have just enough firepower to squeak out a close one on the road as long as Jalen Ramsey can play.
Week 5: @ Carolina Panthers
This is probably the hardest game of the next six weeks for the Jaguars. I had them losing to the Panthers before the season. Even with Cam Newton possibly out, I still don’t see them being able to outscore Carolina. They have play makers all over and Kyle Allen was highly accurate yesterday against the Arizona Cardinals, completing 73% of his passes and throwing for four touchdowns on just 26 attempts.
This is the only game I’d say I would expect a loss before kickoff.
Week 6: vs. New Orleans Saints
Before the season? Drew Brees — one of the least sacked, pressured, and rattled quarterbacks is coming to town. Of course we’re going to lose. Now it’s Teddy Bridgewater, who limited turnovers on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, but was helped immensely by a touchdown a piece by his defense and by special teams. Limit the mistakes (something Minshew is very good at) and scheme up something on defense where Alvin Kamara is covered on passing downs (he had nine of the Saints’ 19 receptions yesterday) and you’ve got a chance. After all, that defense is allowing 27.3 points per game, good for 26th in the NFL.
Get an early score and cover the running backs and you’ve got a chance to win one you shouldn’t have just three weeks ago.
Week 7: @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are giving up even more points than the Saints, but the big difference is their offense. Unlike New Orleans, it isn’t very good — only 18.0 points per game. The defense is tailor made to stop an offense like this. They have a volume pocket passer in Andy Dalton who is only completing 62% of his passes. The offensive line has given up 11 sacks. The running back production is even worse than the Jaguars. And their passing game is heavily reliant on two guys — John Ross III and Tyler Boyd — that the Jaguars (at least their current roster) has the answer for at cornerback.
Limit mistakes, win time of possession, and don’t let Dalton get into a rhythm with either of his top two receivers and this is a win.
Week 8: vs. New York Jets
Sir, this is a Wendy’s drive thru.
The Jets are averaging just 11.0 points per game and have averaged less than 200 yards per game of total offense. Go win by 40 in front of the home crowd, Gardner.
Week 9: vs. Houston Texans (in London)
This and the Panthers game, I have serious concerns with how we match up. Deshaun Watson is an MVP candidate — I mean, did you see yesterday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers? — and that offensive line was manhandling us last time we played. The Jaguars have an advantage of being seasoned veterans are playing in the UK, so if this is another coin flip game like it was two weeks ago, the Jaguars could win. Otherwise, if Ramsey is gone by this point... yikes.
Six games. Two where I don’t think we have a distinct advantage. If we can go into the bye week with a 5-4 record with Minshew playing as well as he has the first three weeks, I think we’re in a very good position to make a late season playoff race.
At the very least, we’d have found our quarterback of the future.