In the very first year under the guidance of Doug Pederson, the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the NFL world by not only making it to the playoffs, but winning a thriller against the Chargers in the Wild Card round before going toe-to-toe with the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs. While they fell short of a victory, Jacksonville proved that they were no fluke, and fans everywhere should be as excited as ever for what’s to come.
With not much roster turnover this offseason, and the addition of Calvin Ridley, the Jaguars are entering the 2023 season as the heavy favorites to win the AFC South yet again. They’re even getting some love as a potential Super Bowl sleeper.
Understandably so, as there are plenty of reasons to believe that this team is primed for a legitimate push for their first-ever championship, but there are still some things that make you question if the Jacksonville Jaguars are ready to make the leap as well.
Here are the three biggest reasons to believe the Jaguars can win Super Bowl LVIII, as well as three major reasons why they can’t.
Why They Can
After the disastrous Urban Meyer experiment back in 2021, the Jaguars found themselves void of any semblance of identity and ran the risk of ruining the development of Trevor Lawrence if they didn’t hit on their next head coaching hire. Luckily for Shad Khan, Doug Pederson fell right into his lap, and he wasted absolutely no time in turning this team around.
In his very first season in Jacksonville, Pederson took the Jaguars from worst to first in the AFC South, finishing 9-8 on their way to their first playoff berth since 2017. The Jags would make it all the way to the Divisional Round before their incredible season came to an end at the hands of the Chiefs. While a loss is never the outcome you want, Pederson was confident that the team would have more opportunities in games like this moving forward by telling reporters:
“Our expectation is to be in these games every year. That is our expectation. This was a good first year for all of us.”
That quote points to the level of standards Doug Pederson has set in place in Duval moving forward, and it will be interesting to see what those expectations do for this team in 2023 and beyond. As a former Super Bowl-winning coach himself, Pederson knows more than anyone in the organization what it takes to reach that level and is one of the biggest reasons the Jaguars have a shot to win Super Bowl LVIII.
In 2021, the Jacksonville Jaguars were giving out significant offensive snaps to the likes of Carlos Hyde, Laquan Treadwell, and Tavon Austin in what was the strangest collection of skill players I’ve seen on an NFL roster in my lifetime. Fast forward just two years and one competent head coach later, and Trevor Lawrence suddenly finds himself surrounded by one of the deepest skill position groups across the entire league.
Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram were all thought to be overpaid when they arrived in Duval but nobody is saying that now, as the trio were all spectacular in their first season in Jacksonville. All three pass catchers posted career highs in receptions and yards in 2022, and they’ve developed an invaluable connection with Trevor Lawrence in the process.
Travis Etienne also enjoyed a breakout year for the Jags last year, as the former 2021 first-round pick came back from injury (missed all of rookie season) to become just the fifth running back in team history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He did so without starting his first game for the Jags until Week 7.
That returning core would be enough to consider the offense Super Bowl-caliber, but now you add Calvin Ridley to the mix, and you have a potential elite unit in the making.
You know how they say that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be good? Well, it’s even better to be both. Not only do the Jacksonville Jaguars have one of the most talented rosters in the entire AFC, but they also benefit from being in arguably the worst division in the NFL in the AFC South. Both the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts are going through the early stages of rebuilds while the Tennessee Titans seem to be determined to get as old and slow as they possibly can.
All jokes aside, these details are significant because as we all know, timing is everything in this league. If you can max out your roster in a year when the rest of your conference is down, it increases your odds significantly to potentially secure home field advantage in the playoffs.
Last season, Jacksonville went 6-3 at home and just 4-6 on the road (including the playoffs), so clearly having home field throughout the playoffs would go a long way when it comes to the Jaguars potentially winning the Super Bowl this season. If they can handle business within the division, which should be the case in 2023, the Jaguars will have a legitimate shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Why They Can’t
Lack of depth
We all know that once you get into the playoffs, the depth of your roster really comes into play. The Jaguars, unfortunately, got a lesson in that in the AFC Divisional round against Kansas City. After Patrick Mahomes went down with an injury, backup quarterback (and former Jaguar) Chad Henne was unexpectedly thrust into the game. He proceeded to lead the Chiefs on a 98-yard touchdown drive to ensure Jacksonville didn’t steal back momentum during Mahomes’ brief exit.
That type of experienced depth across a roster is vital for Super Bowl contenders because without it, one injury could ruin your championship aspirations.
Right now, it feels like Jacksonville is lacking that in several key areas, particularly on defense. In 2022, the Jaguars ranked 28th against the pass and were 26th in sacks (35), and a lot of that had to do with them being thin in the secondary and off the edge. Unfortunately, there isn’t much reason to believe those units will improve significantly in 2023 after a quiet offseason that saw the Jacksonville brass prioritize adding depth through the draft over free agency.
While that is a fine way to build for the future, the Jaguars have a shot to contend in the AFC right now, and their top-heavy defensive units could come back to hurt them when it matters most come playoff time.
Defensive star power
While Jacksonville’s offense is loaded with big-name talent, you can’t say the same about the other side of the ball. As the roster currently stands, Josh Allen is the only player on that defense that has ever made a Pro Bowl, and that was way back in 2019 when he was voted in as an alternate after his rookie season.
That’s not to say there isn’t talent to work with. Tyson Campbell is one of the best young corners playing today, Foye Oluokun has led the NFL in tackles the last two seasons, and DaVon Hamilton is one of the most underrated nose tackles in the league. Still, the Jaguars' lack of star power on that side of the ball is something you don’t typically see on a Super Bowl-winning team, and history points to that being an important factor for a championship defense.
Not since the 2007 Colts has a team was a Super Bowl without a Pro Bowl player on their defense. In fact, 10 of the last 15 winners have had multiple.
Obviously, if Jacksonville is making a run toward Super Bowl LVIII, they could experience more love when it comes to voting. As of now, though, it’s hard to imagine they can bring a championship to Duval County without a player or two on the defense breaking out in a major way.
Now hear me out! I’m not saying Trevor Lawrence isn’t good enough to lead the Jaguars to a Super Bowl this season. What I am saying is that the teams’ chances of accomplishing that goal rely almost solely on Lawrence taking another significant step forward in year three.
For as impressive as Trevor was in 2022, he had extended moments of struggles sprinkled throughout the season. Obviously, the 2-6 start was rough, but even after that Lawrence had moments, and even entire games, where he just couldn’t get it going. In fact, down the stretch of their playoff push between Weeks 16 and 18, Lawrence threw just one touchdown and turned it over three times. He would then follow that up with one of the worst halves of quarterback play in playoff history during Wild Card weekend as he threw four first-half interceptions against the Chargers.
To Lawrence’s credit, he would prove he can overcome adversity when the pressure is on by leading an improbable comeback to ultimately defeat L.A., but that type of extended struggle simply can’t happen if you expect to lead a team to a Super Bowl.
Trevor Lawrence in the first half:— PFF (@PFF) January 15, 2023
1 touchdown-4 interceptions
24.5 passer rating
Trevor Lawrence in the second half:
3 touchdowns-0 interceptions
144.5 passer rating pic.twitter.com/F5LiOx3nPI
It’s obvious Trevor has all the physical tools you could want in a franchise quarterback, but he still has occasional lapses when it comes to the mental side of the position. If he can show growth in that area, which should be expected in his second year under Doug Pederson, then the sky is the limit for Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
What other factors do you think could make or break the Jaguars’ Super Bowl chances this season?