The Jaguars got their 10th win of the season Sunday. Here's what you need to remember moving forward.
1. The Jaguars are in the playoffs.
This is what every team plays for: a spot in the tournament and a chance to win in it all. The Jaguars, by defeating the Houston Texans, earned their first playoff spot in a decade. With a win over the 49ers next Sunday the Jaguars will clinch their first AFC South division title and their first division championship since 1999 (AFC Central). In recent years Jaguars players and fans have used December as a time to look ahead to the future. This year things are quite different. The Jaguars are firing on all cylinders. The defense is shutting folks down, while the Jaguars offense has scored at least 30 points in every game so far in December.
2. Speaking of that offense...
The Jaguars offense has done a complete 180 since the team's last loss. Blake Bortles has played like an MVP over the last three weeks, while his receivers have become immeasurably more consistent. The offensive line has picked up it's play in December too. Against the Texans on Sunday they allowed just 1 sack, marking just the second sack they've allowed during December. Bortles was about as good as it get against the Texans, racking up 326 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Former undrafted free agents Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens sparked the Jaguars offense time and again this week. Cole finished with seven catches for 186 yards and a touchdown, while Mickens caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores.
3. The run game thrived, even without Leonard Fournette.
The Jaguars run game hasn't skipped a beat even when Leonard Fournette is out of the lineup. Fournette was a late scratch this Sunday as he deals with a quad injury, but the Jaguars were still able to run the ball effectively against the Texans. It's become a nightmare trying to defend against the Jaguars as of late. With Blake Bortles and the passing offense thriving, it makes it much easier to run the ball. Against the Texans the Jaguars used Chris Ivory as their lead back and he struggled to get anything going consistently. But speedster Corey Grant was able to pick up the slack, carrying the ball 10 times for 69 yards and a score. Fullback Tommy Bohanon also turned in a big performance, rushing the ball two times for two yards and two touchdowns. In total the Jaguars carried the ball 38 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns. The Jaguars will want Leonard Fournette back as soon as they can get him in the lineup, but the Jaguars offense is capable of performing without number twenty seven on the field.
4. The Sacksonville defense continues to shine.
The Jaguars defense is the most dominant unit on either side of the ball in the NFL this season. That trend continued Sunday against the Texans. Houston QB TJ Yates struggled as he completed just 12/31 passes for 128 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Texans rushed the ball for just 87 yards on the day. Their lone touchdown came from one of the best WRs in football, DeAndre Hopkins, who ran a fantastic route to get open in the end zone and hauled in an excellent pass from Yates. The Jaguars recorded four sacks of Yates. Calais Campbell got two and now has 14.5 sacks on the season. Malik Jackson was also able to get to the QB - he earned his 8th sack of the season and has a chance to eclipse the 10 sack mark in a season for the first time in his career. 2015 third overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. picked up a sack of his own and sits at 7.5 sacks on the year. He too has a chance to get 10 sacks for the first time in his career.
5. The special teams plays has been a huge part of the Jaguars recent success.
Josh Lambo made his lone field goal attempt against the Texans from 38 yards out and drilled all six of his PAT tries. Lambo has missed just one field goal since signing on with the Jaguars prior to week seven. He deserves Pro Bowl consideration. Jaguars punter, Brad Nortman, was also fantastic. He averaged over 47 yards per punt on six punts against Houston, including three punts inside the Texans 20. Jaydon Mickens played well at punt returner, in addition to his new uptick in play at WR, returning 5 punts for 38 yards with a long of 26. If the Jaguars special teams unit can continue to play at this level into the postseason then the Jaguars will be incredibly tough to beat.
Enjoy it, Jaguars fans! You deserve this.
Stay tuned for more!
Follow Jordan de Lugo on Twitter.