The Jaguars enter their week 8 bye coming off a dominant 27-0 victory of the division rival Colts. They're 4-3 in 2017 and have blown out the Steelers, Ravens, Texans, and Colts. The defense is on a record setting pace - The Jaguars are on pace for 75 sacks, which would set the all time NFL single season record. Calais Campbell is on pace for 23 sacks - another NFL single season record. The Jaguars secondary is playing lights out as Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye are holding opposing QBs to the two lowest passer ratings in the NFL this year. On offense they're the NFL's best rushing team by a long shot thanks to Leonard Fournette and Co. Their oft criticized QB Blake Bortles has now been "Good Blake" in three contests this year. Dating back to the final two games of last season Bortles has 11 TDs to 5 INTs under Doug Marrone. It looks obvious that Blake Bortles isn't the long term answer in Jacksonville, but can he be the QB of a true contender?
So, the Jaguars have the easiest remaining schedule based on just about every statistical projection. But, the Jaguars have yet to win two games in a row in 2017. In order to make the playoffs, they'll likely need to do just that. Let's take a look at their remaining schedule.
Week 9: vs Bengals (2-4)
The Bengals are a talented team, but have been severely underachieving in 2017. They'll be a test, but the Jaguars will be home favorites against the Cats from Cincy.
Week 10: vs Chargers
Another talented team. The Chargers gave the Jaguars the business in 2016. Now, the Chargers defense, led by former Jaguars HC Gus Bradley, is taking down QBs at an impressive clip. Their offense hasn't been what it should be, but the talent remains there.
Week 11: @ Browns
A must win for the Jaguars. Each of the Jaguars rivals in the AFC South have defeated the Browns already this year. The Jaguars have a far superior team and could win this one in blowout fashion.
Week 12: @ Cardinals
A tough test for the Jaguars will be playing in Arizona. There's a time change and the Cardinals, despite their record, are a talented bunch. Their offensive line leaves a bit to be desired, so it could be a sack party for Calais Campbell (who returns to where his career began) and company in the desert.
Week 13: vs Colts
The Colts - enough said.
Week 14: vs Seahawks
The Jaguars toughest remaining game on paper - however the Seahawks offensive line is banged up and isn't performing at an NFL level. The Jaguars must take advantage.
Week 15: vs Texans
The Jaguars handed Deshaun Watson one of the worst QB performances in the NFL this year and will look to, once again, take advantage of a lesser offensive line.
Week 16: @ 49ers
The 49ers were beaten by the Colts. They are, perhaps, the worst team in football this year. Another must win.
Week 17: @ Titans
This could be the matchup that decides who wins the AFC South. If this game shapes up to what it could be in terms of importance, this will be ultimate litmus test for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars should have three guaranteed wins out of that bunch - the Colts, 49ers, and Browns. With those three games they get to seven wins. They'll likely only need to win two or three games outside of those. The Big Cats will likely be favored against the Texans, Chargers, and Bengals. If they can win those games that get's the team to 10-6 and almost certainly would earn them the AFC South division crown.
In order to achieve that the Jaguars must get over the hump of winning at home - five of their next seven contests are at EverBank Field. They must figure out a way to string together multiple good performances in a row. Lastly, they must take care of business against their divisional opponents.
With such an easy remaining schedule and such a dominant defense/rushing attack it's far from a stretch to say the Jaguars would be a major disappointment if they don't reach the playoffs. The hopes and dreams (and livers) of the people of Duval ride on the Jaguars success - Can the Jaguars once raucous fan base be resurrected from the ashes? If the Jaguars fail to make the playoffs this year it'll be devastating for the franchise and the fan base.
The team can always fall back on the idea of signing/trading for/drafting a new QB who make the Jaguars passing game great again in 2018 - but the idea of the Jaguars always relying on what they can do in the offseason is wearing thin. The Jaguars must win.
I believe that in order to prove to themselves that they can win in the playoffs the Jaguars need to beat Tennessee in the final regular season contest - that's a long way off, but it seems fair to say that the Jaguars matchups with the Titans will be a defining factor in their 2017 story.
Do you think the Jaguars will make the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below!
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