Imagine saying this at the start of the season: the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to the NFL Playoffs. No need to imagine anymore, as Jacksonville clinched the AFC South by defeating the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night in Week 18 action. Everyone already knows about the Jaguars’ remarkable turnaround, but it really can’t be overstated just how impressive it is.
Over the past two seasons, Jacksonville had a record of 4-29 and finished with the first overall pick in both seasons. At one point this season, the Jaguars were 3-7 and on their way to another forgettable season. Then, they flipped the switch and won six of their last seven games to earn their first playoff berth since 2017.
It goes to show just how big an impact just a few changes can have on a team. With another year of development, a few key additions and an actual NFL coach, the Jaguars are now a playoff-caliber team. Now, they’ll have a chance to prove themselves in the postseason.
But how will Jacksonville do in the postseason? Let’s make some bold predictions right now.
3. The defense shines in the Wild Card Round
Down the home stretch of the season, Jacksonville’s defense has actually been the star of the show. The Jaguars allowed just 22 points and 816 total yards over their final three games. Granted, those games were against the Jets, Texans and Titans, but it is still an impressive feat, nonetheless.
The defense will face a tougher test in the playoffs, as Jacksonville will face either the Los Angeles Chargers or Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card Round (although the Ravens aren’t scaring anyone without Lamar Jackson). Still, the Jaguars have the talent on defense to shut down opposing offenses when needed. Although their defensive stats aren’t the most impressive, the Jaguars have one amazing strength on defense: forcing turnovers.
Jacksonville has 27 takeaways this season, tied with the Patriots and Eagles for second-most in the league. Both potential opponents are in the top five in fewest giveaways, though, so the Jaguars will have to force some mistakes. If they can do that, though, they will be in great shape to win in the playoffs. After all, it is how they beat the Titans in Week 18.
2. Trevor Lawrence throws three touchdowns in the Wild Card Round
Trevor Lawrence has taken a huge step forward in his second professional season. The former top draft pick struggled as a rookie, but he has excelled this season with 4,113 yards, and 25 touchdowns. The addition of new weapons such as Christian Kirk and Evan Engram, plus head coach Doug Pederson, have clearly helped him realize his potential.
That said, Lawrence did not play his best game on Saturday. On paper, his stat line of 20-of-32 for 212 yards and a touchdown isn’t bad, but he missed several key throws that nearly cost Jacksonville the game. The most egregious miss came early in the third quarter, when Lawrence badly overthrew a wide-open Zay Jones in the end zone.
HOW DID TREVOR LAWRENCE MISS THIS THROW??!! pic.twitter.com/EZB2pat7ZF
— Brian Y (@byysports) January 8, 2023
For the Jaguars to win in the playoffs, Lawrence will have to play much better. Fortunately for Jaguars fans, Lawrence’s good far outweighs the bad, and he should bounce back well.
Additionally, Lawrence has had great games against both of his potential opponents. The former Clemson Tiger threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns against LA in Week 3, then for 368 touchdowns and three touchdowns against Baltimore in Week 12. If he can have a similar performance in the Wild Card Round, then Jacksonville will win, plain and simple.
1. Jaguars win a playoff game and puts up a fight in the Divisional Round
On paper, it’s easy to think the Jaguars will lose in the Wild Card Round, as they have a worse record than their opponent. However, there are several factors that give Jacksonville the edge. First, the Jaguars are riding great momentum after five straight wins, and a team entering the playoffs hot is always dangerous.
Additionally, Jacksonville has already beaten both of its potential opponents earlier this season. In Week 3, the Jaguars absolutely demolished the Chargers 38-10 in Los Angeles. In Week 12, they overcame a huge deficit to defeat the Ravens 28-27, and that was with Lamar Jackson playing.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jacksonville beat either team again and advance to the Divisional Round. Though, the competition gets much tougher if the Jaguars do make it there. They will almost certainly play one of the AFC’s big three (Chiefs, Bills, Bengals), and they aren’t ready to take down those teams just yet.
Still, they won’t make it easy on their opponent and will fight to the very end. Despite the loss, this will still go down as a great season and the beginning of a new era in Jacksonville.