The number of ‘panic button’ tweets, news stories, radio commentary, and media questions has reached an all-time high when discussing the state of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2023 season. Initially, I believed the whole thing was overblown. (Also, what does this panic button look like? What happens if Dougie P. pushes it? Do sirens go off in the locker room? Does Tony Khan hire an AEW wrestler to take out star players from the other team? I digress.)
But now that Trevor and the boys have lost three straight games and the AFC South’s Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts share the same 8-6 record, the notion the season could be lost and the playoffs may not happen is legit.
And let me be clear, this article isn’t about sugar coating. I’m worried about the state of the Jags. No matter how bad they’d start games, for a good portion of the season, this team figured out ways to win. Now, it’s the opposite. Trevor fumbling untouched in the red zone. Brandon McManus making me yearn for the glory days of Riley Patterson. Joe Flacco slicing and dicing the defense after previously spending the first half of the NFL season watching games while drinking Busch Lights on his futon (okay, in fairness, Joe is probably more of a Michelob Ultra guy and has a super fancy La-Z-Boy).
However, with three games remaining in the regular season, Jags’ fans should have real hope this team can get it together, make a playoff run, and yes, even get to THE EXTREMELY LARGE GAME THAT WE CANNOT SAY DUE TO THE NFL’S NO-NONSENSE TRADEMARK ENFORCEMENT.
Oh, and according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), the Jaguars still have a 78.9% chance of making the playoffs and a 64.4% chance of winning the AFC South. Here are five other reasons for some holiday hope backed up, not by any complex statistical analysis, but mostly my own gut.
1. The schedule: The Jags have the easiest schedule remaining of all the AFC South teams. Tampa is playing well with three straight victories, including a big one in Green Bay this past week. However, their next two include Carolina at home and Tennessee in Nashville. The NFL is week-to-week, and any team can beat any other team at any given time, but there’s no denying the Bengals, Browns, and Ravens all have legitimately stronger rosters than the teams Jacksonville will face in the upcoming weeks.
2. The law of averages: The NFL season is full of ups and down for almost every team. The Jags have had a roller coaster of a year that’s been filled with streaks of both wins and losses. Simply put, we’re due for a win. On the other hand, the Bucs have won three straight, and by my math, are due for a loss. We play the worst team in the league at home on New Years’ Eve, and a team we dominated a few weeks ago to finish things off. The schedule and the general pattern of winning and losing is in our favor.
3. We’re getting healthier-ish: Let’s assume Trevor plays on Sunday versus Tampa. Yeah, a little Christmas present from the concussion gods. Side note: Concussion gods are good friends and next-door neighbors with Santa. We have Jamal Agnew back! Cisco and Tyson Campbell could very well make their return on Sunday! Zay … well, we’ll see about his hamstring. But at least it’s not his knee, right?!?! This one may be a push, but the offensive line is still standing – sorta. My thought is that if (big if) we can get to the playoffs, it reasons that several key guys could be healthy enough to provide that spark — assuming more don’t go down before then.
4. We’ve played the teams we’ll play in the playoffs: Of the top 10 AFC teams, the Jags have played all but one of them with a record of 5-5 (including two games a piece against Indianapolis and Houston). Most of these games were close, and a little familiarity/late-season run/health all matter. This team can play with anyone in the conference, and if the Jags get hot, Vegas here we come.
5. Doug Pederson: Coaching matters. We’ve seen the other side of it way too often in the past couple decades. This team believes in Head Coach Doug Pederson, and when been backed into a corner, they’ve gotten on a roll and begun to show what they can be. Last year was magical and unexpected, but with expectations high in 2023, this may be Pederson’s toughest test as a head coach in Jacksonville. We’ll see how it goes, but in my mind, the panic button discussion is usually meant for lost locker rooms and individual players who play for themselves. That is not the Jaguars under Doug Pederson, and that’s the biggest reason why every Jags’ fan should have hope.