After losing to the Eagles in London, and falling to just 3-5 on the year, the Jaguars have been written off both nationally and locally. While the outside world believes the Jaguars are done for the season, inside the building the atmosphere seems to be somewhat positive, even after losing five of the last six games.
Both Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey have publicly expressed confidence in the Jaguars moving forward and appear to be all in on 2018.
On Wednesday, via CBS Sports Radio, Ramsey talked about the goal being to get back into the playoffs.
Earlier in the week Campbell took to twitter and made it clear that he would give everything he has for the rest of this season.
With the bye week upon the Jaguars and a bit of a lull in the new cycle, this got me thinking, do the Jaguars actually have a shot at making the playoffs?
It seems highly unlikely that any team from the AFC South would be able to earn a wild card spot this season, so the division crown is likely the only route to the playoffs for the Big Cats.
Let's take at the AFC South division leaders to start.
The Texans are surging and have sole possession of first place in the South. Winners of five straight, Houston has a 5-3 record half way through the season. Their upcoming schedule includes a trip to Denver, which is never an easy place to play. The Broncos are 2-2 at home with losses to the Chiefs and Rams, so that's not likely to be an easy one. But even if the Texans fall in Denver they have, what should be, three easy victories left on their schedule as they have yet to face the Browns, Colts, and Jets. If the Texans only win those three games they'll still finish 8-8, which would mean the Jaguars would have to finish the season with at least a 5-3 record in the second half including a win over the Texans. Stranger things have happened, but overcoming this two game deficit will be no easy task for Jacksonville.
But just for fun let's assume the Texans do struggle to finish out the season.
Can the Jaguars actually win more games than they lose in the second half?
The defense certainly has more than enough talent to compete at a high level. Starting nickel CB DJ Hayden should be able to return following the bye week after missing six straight games thanks to turf toe. And AJ Bouye doesn't seem likely to miss any more time with his calf injury. That leaves the Jaguars start studded defense in good health entering the second half of the season. With a healthy, and hopefully rejuvenated group on defense, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a better performance on that side of the ball during the final eight games.
But what about the offense?
The Jaguars offense has been absolutely horrendous over the last four games. On the season the team is averaging just 16.8 points per game (29th in the NFL) and 352.5 yards from scrimmage (21st in the NFL).
Why should we believe the Jaguars offense can turn things around?
There's really only one good reason.
Fournette is expected to return to the lineup after the bye week after missing all but part of two halves of football so far in 2018 with a hamstring injury. If he is actually healthy, which remains to be seen, he could do wonders for this Jaguars offense. Since his arrival in Duval County the Jaguars are 11-7 (including the playoffs) in games Leonard Fournette has played in, but just 4-5 without him. The powerful combination of Fournette and the newly acquired Carlos Hyde could cause fits for defenses down the stretch.
So, let's say the offense becomes somewhat functional with the return of Fournette and the defense revs things up a bit. Does the Jaguars schedule seem favorable for a second half run?
It'll really come down to their performance against the division. They still play the Colts and Texans at home and the Titans on the road. If they handle business against those teams they'll have a shot.
Jacksonville will likely be favored against the Bills and Dolphins (both on the road), but taking on the Steelers and Redskins, both of whom are in first place in their respective divisions, will be no easy task.
So, is it possible that the Jaguars could make the playoffs?
Sure, but it'll take a second half collapse from the Texans and a big time turn around from the Jags offense. Plus the defense will need to return their playmaking ways of 2017.
Things don't look great for the Jaguars at this point. But never say never . . . right?
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