After nearly a decade of losing and not fielding a competitive team, the Jacksonville Jaguars finally turned the corner in 2017. Coming off a 3-13 season in 2016, which was the 9th straight year they didn’t post a winning record and 6th straight year in which they failed to win more than 5 games, Jacksonville went 10-6 and won the AFC South. Their first division title since winning the AFC Central back in 1999.
Given how bad the team had been, it wasn’t an overwhelming surprise to see this team play well. In fact, many thought the Jaguars were going to have a breakout season in 2016, as the team had done a tremendous job of stock-piling young talent.
The turnaround just so happened to come in the first year under head coach Doug Marrone, whose intense style of coaching seemed to hit home with both the young and old players on the team.
It was no secret that Marrone and his staff wanted to beat teams with an old school philosophy. They wanted to run the football down your throat on offense and let their defense take care of the rest. It was almost good enough to get the Jaguars to the Super Bowl, as they had a 20-10 lead on the Patriots in the 4th quarter of the AFC Championship Game.
It’s the exact same recipe they will bring to the table in 2018, though this year’s team looks even stronger.
One of the interesting things with the Jaguars rise to the top, was the ongoing scrutiny of quarterback Blake Bortles. Many felt that Bortles was holding the team back and a change needed to be made. Jacksonville instead put their full trust into Bortles and that’s evident by the fact that the other two quarterbacks on the roster right now are Cody Kessler and 6th round pick Tanner Lee out of Nebraska.
Bortles will no longer have the duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns at his disposal. Both have departed in the offseason, but it’s not a major concern, especially given Robinson only played in 1 game last year. Marquise Lee led the team with 56 catches for 702 yards and will return, alongside of couple of promising second year wideouts in Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. The Jaguars also signed Donte Montcreif and used a 2nd round pick on LSU wide out D.J. Chark. Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis was cut and the team signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins to replace him.
The offensive line has come a long way in recent years and Jacksonville took another step in bolstering their front five by going out and signing one of the best left guards in the game in Andrew Norwell, who will play alongside last year’s big free agent addition in center Brandon Linder and second-year left tackle Cam Robinson.
Norwell will only make it harder for teams to slow-down second-year running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 1,040 yards in just 13 games as a rookie. If Fournette can stay healthy, there’s a good chance he will lead the league in rushing in 2018.
Teams better hope Bortles and that offense don’t continue to improve, because it’s going to be extremely hard to score on this Jaguars defense. Last year Jacksonville ranked 2nd in both scoring defense (16.8 ppg) and yards allowed (286.1 ypg). They also ranked 2nd in both interceptions (21) and sacks (55).
It all starts up front with one of the most talented and deepest defensive lines in the league. One they just added to by using their 1st round pick on Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, who will join Malik Jackson, Marcell Darues and Abry Jones in quite the 4-man unit to clog up the middle. At defensive end, starters Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue will be backed up by the likes of Donte Fowler and Dawuane Smoot.
At linebacker the Jaguars’ have two big time playmakers in Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. They did lose starter Paul Posluszny, but are confident with their depth that someone will emerge.
That ability to put pressure on the quarterback and the talent Jacksonville featured in the secondary, made this the hardest defense to throw on in the NFL and it wasn’t even close. The Jaguars allowed just 169.9 ypg through the air. The next best was the Vikings at 192.4 ypg. The gap between Jacksonville and Minnesota is the same gap that separates the Vikings from the 12 best pass defense in the Falcons at 214.3 ypg.
All four starters are back, led by the dynamic young cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church will once again maintain the two starting safety spots. The only significant change comes in the loss of nickel corner Aaron Colvin, but the team did a nice job replacing Colvin with the free agent signing of D.J. Hayden.
2018 Jaguars Schedule & Projected Odds
Below you will find the early odds released by Vegas for Weeks 1-16, as well as my projected number for Week 17. Using the lines we are able to give a game-by-game win probability, which we used to come up an expected win total.
|14||at Titans TNF||+1||0.49|
Projected Wins: 9.55
Over/Under Wins Prediction: OVER 9
I would have to lean towards the Jaguars going OVER their win total. Basically this comes down to whether you think the Jacksonville is going to either regress from last year’s 10-6 regular season mark or build on what they started in 2017. I just don’t see this team taking a step back, especially given how little they lost and the key additions they made in the offseason.
I’m also a believer that the only reason the Jaguars win total isn’t higher is because Bortles isn’t viewed as top level quarterback. So much emphasis is put on who the starting quarterback is, that people overlook the fact that Jacksonville has one of the best top to bottom rosters in the NFL.
The other thing you have to keep in mind is Bortles doesn’t need to be great for this team to win a lot of games. With that said, I think we may have started to see Bortles turn a corner at the end of last season, as he really played well in the playoffs. I just don’t think it’s asking a lot for this team to win 10 games, especially given their schedule.
Odds to Win the Super Bowl: +2200
Call me crazy, but I think the Jaguars are one of the best value plays out there when it comes to winning the Super Bowl. Had they not went super-conservative in that loss to New England in the AFC Championship, who knows, maybe this team would have won it all last year.
There’s too much talent on this roster for 10 other teams to have better odds to win it all. I’m not saying the Jaguars are the team to beat in the AFC, but they have every bit as good a chance as any other team to take home the title in 2018.
Odds to Win the AFC: +900
As you probably guessed, I also think there’s some value with betting the Jaguars to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Right now the Patriots (+250), Steelers (+400) and Texans (+850) all have better odds to win the AFC next year. These odds suggest that New England and Pittsburgh are a class above the other 14 teams in the AFC and I just don’t think they are that much better than the Jaguars.
Odds to Win the AFC South: +180
This is where it gets a little tricky. You might assume that given the fact I think the Jaguars will win 10 or more games and are showing great value to win the Super Bowl, that they are a lock to win their own division. That’s not the case. Jacksonville isn’t the only up and coming young team in the AFC South. I’m equally as high on the Houston Texans, who are another team that I think is going to be a legit Super Bowl contender.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t bet the Texans to win the division, I just would much rather only have to worry about them going 10-6 or better and not worry about them edging out the Texans in the AFC South.