Before you ask, the answer is no. I am not predicting the Jaguars will go to the Super Bowl. I am not insinuating that the Jaguars could go 16-0. I am simply putting together a list of things that would have to happen in order for the Jaguars to have a chance at making a run to the playoffs and a consequent Super Bowl run.
Malik Jackson was a guest on the Simms and Lefkoe Podcast last week when he told the hosts "We're (The Jaguars) gonna win the Super Bowl". I don't believe that the Jaguars winning the SB is likely or even plausible for that matter, but for fun I decided to compile a list of things that would absolutely have to happen in order for the Jaguars to even be a playoff team. Here's what I came up with:
1. The offense MUST get off to faster starts - The Jaguars offense has gotten off to slow starts over the last half decade. Not only have they struggled to score early in games, but the offense has struggled to put points on the board early on in the season in recent years. Since 2013 the Jaguars offense has averaged just 14.6 points per game over the first quarter of the season. Subsequently the team has won only 2 games through the first month of the season in that time frame. That's 2-14 from week one to week four over the last four seasons. As I stated before the team has also struggled to score early in games. If this Jaguars team is to have success in 2017 then the offense will have to get off to a faster start in games, especially to start the season.
2. The defense MUST force more turnovers - Creating turnovers defensively starts with winning the battle up front. The Jaguars defensive line will need to be able to get pressure on the QB in 2017. Adding Calais Campbell to an already impressive young defensive line should help. He and Malik Jackson lining up next to each other in obvious passing situations will give AFC South interior lineman nightmares. If Yannick Ngakoue can take the next step in year two and eclipse the double digit sack mark then this front may become one of the best in football. Combine a solid front with a strong group of starting linebackers that will now feature coverage specialist Myles Jack in the middle AND perhaps the most impressive starting secondary in the AFC and the Jaguars defense could become an elite unit. A year ago the Jaguars recorded a league low 7 interceptions. That number will need to double or triple for the Jaguars to make a deep run.
3. Blake Bortles MUST turn the ball over less - Over the last three seasons only one player has thrown more interceptions than Blake Bortles. Bortles has thrown 51 interceptions in that time span. Not only has he been an INT machine, but he's also added his fair share of fumbles. In 2016 he threw 16 interceptions and fumbled the ball 8 times. Bortles needs to limit his turnovers to one per game or less. That means a lot less interceptions and a lot less fumbles. Can he do it? Only time will tell, but if he can't the Jaguars will continue to struggle.
4. The offense MUST be able to control the clock - Over the last several seasons the Jaguars have not been able to sustain long drives. Even in the offenses 2015 break out season they didn't sustain long drives consistently. This has allowed opposing offenses to wear out the Jaguars defense and even when the Jaguars defense has played well they haven't been able to stop opposing offenses late in games. If the Jaguars offense can control the clock a little bit better with a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette and company then the defense may stay fresher later in games and be an asset to the team in game defining moments. Of course, for this to happen the offensive line will need to give the Jaguars running backs some room to work with.
5. The team, as a whole, MUST undergo an attitude adjustment - Jaguars teams of late have been soft. They've been told things like "just get better ever day" or "trust the process and results will come".
No longer. With Doug Marrone at the helm and Tom Coughlin pulling the strings behind the scenes (sometimes) there will be more accountability. With the newish regime and the addition of veterans Calais Campbell, Barry Church, Branden Albert, and AJ Bouye (all of whom have been on winning teams in the past) the hope is that the Jaguars will have a new mindset guided by hard work and winning every moment. Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone will be demanding, if the players buy in the team could see a culture change - they'll need it if the Jaguars are to vault themselves from the bottom tier of teams in the league.
Having the confidence to predict a Super Bowl appearance may be a sign of a player and team with growing confidence.
Will the Jaguars win the Super Bowl? I wouldn't count on it. But if they can get a few of the things on this here list done in 2017 then they'll have a good shot at being in a race for the AFC South crown late in the season.