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If the Jaguars are a real contender, they’ll prove it

Jacksonville looks to emulate how another playoff hopeful responded to a shocking blowout loss

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions
Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson shakes hands with Lions head coach Dan Campbell after their team’s preseason game at Ford Field on August 19, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions get compared for many reasons.

The two teams share the large cat brand, as well as a tumultuous history of loss and current potential for success. Additionally, the two teams sat atop the NFL Draft just 19 months ago, claiming the two worst records in the league the year prior.

Fast forward to this current moment, and both teams lead their respective divisions with winning records. That, however, is not the similarity of focus for this piece.

Despite otherwise fortunate starts to their seasons, the Jaguars (6-3) and Lions (7-2) have both suffered a loss of more than 30 points.

Jacksonville’s defeat is fresh on everyone’s mind, but Detroit’s came in week seven when the Baltimore Ravens dominated them in every facet of the game.

As our friends over at Pride of Detroit so eloquently put it, the Lions got “gobsmacked” in a “humbling defeat.” When the sun rose Monday morning, I believe we all heard similar verbiage ringing throughout Duval County.

Are the Jaguars frauds? Is it time to panic? How will the offensive line get any better? What happened to the defense? Does Trevor need to play better? Is it the play calling?

Those all feel like fair questions to ask when your team gets knocked around the way Jacksonville did by the San Francisco 49ers. The abysmal 34-3 loss has brought the Jaguars back down to Earth, to say the least. Ultimately, though, it is just one game out of 17. What it did or did not signal for the reminder of the season remains unseen.

Detroit was in the same boat after its 38-6 loss at Baltimore. The Lions entered that game riding high at 5-1. They felt as if they could step toe-to-toe with any team across the NFL.

Lamar Jackson and company gave them a gut check. Since then, Detroit has bounced back with a pair of victories. It is the exact scenario the Jaguars hope to execute with two divisional games on tap.

After a bye week, the Lions took care of business on Monday Night Football against the Las Vegas Raiders. Perhaps it was the National spotlight, but the Ravens loss was quickly forgotten.

Detroit fans were also pleased to see the long-awaited breakout game from first round pick Jahmyr Gibbs — the Alabama product racked up 189 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.

Good times rolled on the following week, as the Lions went on the road and battled down to the wire with the Los Angeles Chargers. Running back David Montgomery returned and combined with Gibbs for nearly 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Add in a 333-yard passing performance from quarterback Jared Goff, and it was simply too much for the Chargers to overcome.

Former Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson was perfect on the day for Detroit: He iced the game with a 41-yard field goal as time expired, giving Chargers fans a flashback to their 2023 AFC Wild Card game at The Bank.

The Lions’ resurgence can be attributed to a couple of things: They had a bye and they took accountability.

Jacksonville isn’t fortunate on the first leg of that deal. With the 49ers loss, it seems pretty clear that the Jaguars bye week was squandered.

That leaves one option: accountability. In the sport of football there’s only one proper way to handle a blowout…

You’ve got to own it.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell put their loss to the Ravens on himself and immediately tried to find how it could be translated into anything positive.

“You don’t want these to happen, but when it does, it recenters you, it refocuses you. And that’s all I know,” Campbell said. “Nobody thinks that’s fun, but I know that motivates me for next week, it motivates our team. You’ll do any and everything you can not to have that feeling again.”

Jacksonville has begun to respond to its loss in similar fashion. Head coach Doug Pederson emphasized the need to watch, make corrections and move on during his Monday press conference.

“It’s the only way we can continue to get better,” Pederson said.

At the end of the day, no one cares what is said during a presser. The team needs to go on the field and show that something has changed. Jacksonville has the chance to do just that this upcoming weekend against the Tennessee Titans.

Around this time each season, speculation begins about which teams are contenders or pretenders. After Sunday, many would group Jacksonville with the latter.

Look at most current power rankings and you’ll see, Detroit proved that winning makes all that chatter go away. The Lions are a contender, and they demonstrated that their single loss was not indicative of them as a team.

The Jaguars have the same opportunity ahead of them. It’s time to find out if they will seize it.