The Jacksonville Jaguars are experiencing a renaissance. Unfortunately, it’s a renaissance of mediocrity. I’d like to take a few moments of your time this week talking, as many in the area are, about the state of the Jags. What a sad, sad state it is.
Let’s talk about the coaching. (Or maybe the booing. Ha! Psych!)
At this point, I have nowhere else to assign blame but squarely on the coaching. The roster is talented. The complement of defensive backs and wide receivers on the team match up as some of the most athletically gifted in the league. Jalen Ramsey has been in the league all of 7 weeks and already opposing teams are worried about throwing in his direction. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee are all very talented and it’s great to see Lee healthy again. The main areas of weakness seem to be at running back and defensive line, although the DL is gelling quickly (however, that may be put on hold due to Roy Miller now being out for the year).
The running game is basically nonexistent. This is an impressive feat because, last year, it was… okay. Not good, not bad. But what the lack of run game does is put pressure on the quarterback. Blake Bortles was, last year, a good passer. He tied for the most touchdown passes in the league. This year, he is not so good (these are technical terms, people). Whatever lethargic demon has possessed his body to make him backslide needs to be cast out (I need an old priest, and a young priest!). He is a great quarterback with a solid arm and, up to this year, had relatively good decision-making skills. Shoot, he looked competent during the Packers game. But something has sapped his confidence. Was it the awful San Diego game? The drive-killing INT in the Bears game? Maybe the shattering of his internal clock because his line lets people through faster than TSA Pre-check? All of the above?
Or maybe it’s the coaching. (There is no maybe.) I will always be a Jaguars fan. I have endured several years of mediocrity again and I’m steeling myself for more. But if you can honestly look at the schedule and say that there are any winnable games left this year, I would very strongly argue that is not the case. The team got away with both of their wins this year. In the remainder of the season, the Jags play the Texans twice, the Titans twice, the Colts again, and the Chiefs, Lions, Bills, Broncos, and Vikings. The Jags play five more division games, and five additional games against some very good teams from the NFC and AFC. You think you saw Bortles play bad against that Raiders defense that really only boasts Khalil Mack? Line him up against the Broncos defense and tell me that doesn’t want to make you cry.
Unless the Jaguars somehow win against the Titans this week (it’s possible), I think Gus Bradley may be gone during this long stretch. I don’t know what GM Dave Caldwell and Shad Khan are thinking, but it can’t be good. The stars are getting upset (to put it mildly), and the team is showing signs of fracturing – the optimism and “learning” can only go so far, and you get guys who are used to winning like Ramsey, Smith, Robinson, and Jackson that are mad about losing, it takes a strong personality to keep the team together, and Bradley may not be the right person to do the job. So who is? Former Bills coach Doug Marrone is on the coaching staff, and may be an interim choice. But unfortunately, I do not believe Bradley is the guy to lead this team with this talent. That may change, if he changes his attitude. But right now, the Jaguars need some streaks of light to break up the clouds of losing that permeate Everbank Field.
WEEK 8 TOP FIVE: Cowboys, Eagles, Broncos, Vikings, Patriots
On to the game summaries!
JAGUARS at TITANS – I don’t know how much more to write about the Jags without sounding redundant. CAN they win? Yes. Will they? Depends – the biggest threat on the Titans for the Jags to stop is DeMarco Murray, because the Jags’ corners are better than all the Titans’ receivers. However, nose tackle Roy Miller, who is one of the better and bigger players on the Jacksonville defensive line, is out for the year. If Blake Bortles comes to his senses and the team can stop Murray, I think the Jags can win.
REDSKINS at BENGALS – The Redskins got beat in Detroit and are looking to bounce back; the Bengals had an easy game last week against the injury-ridden Browns. Which offense is going to come out on top? I’d say the Redskins at this point.
CARDINALS at PANTHERS – You could have taken Ambien to fall asleep last Sunday night, or you could have watched the Cardinals and Seahawks game, which may have put you to sleep faster. The Panthers are coming off a bye; did they use the time to recover from their narrow loss at the hands of the Saints? I don’t know about that, but the Cards and Panthers should be able to put up enough points to keep this one somewhat entertaining. Arizona has the better running back in David Johnson so I’ll pick them.
LIONS at TEXANS – The Texans got whooped on Monday Night against Denver, and I don’t think their defense can hang with Detroit’s offense. The Lions should have enough defensive power to stop Osweiler; it hasn’t been too hard this season for his first few opponents. The Lions pick up the W.
SEAHAWKS at SAINTS – In their two wins this season, the Saints had to score 35 points or more. The Seahawks are weird in that they either allow a game to stay close and low-scoring, or they put up points in the mid-twenties or higher. Against the Saints I expect them to have one of their high-scoring games. However, with the home crowd behind them, I think the Saints have a pretty good chance to win this one.
CHIEFS at COLTS – This is an interesting game. The Chiefs have looked good for much of this year and have a 4-2 record, with an understandable loss coming against the Steelers and just a bad game against the Texans. The Colts are 3-4 but seem to be figuring out their identity and are beating the teams they are supposed to beat. The matchup will come down to Alex Smith vs. Andrew Luck, and I think that Andrew Luck and the Colts will win here.
JETS at BROWNS – Oh wow. Who stinks the least? The Jets, I guess.
PATRIOTS at BILLS – The deciding factor here is going to be whether LeSean McCoy is healthy. Yes, the Bills shut out the Pats a few weeks ago but they didn’t have Brady. If McCoy is healthy, expect the run game and the loud crowd at The Ralph to keep the Bills in this game. Rex always has something up his sleeve for the Patriots and we’ll see if they can match it. It’s a difficult one to call and normally I’d say the Pats will win, but to me it looks like there is a strong chance of the Bills handing Tommy Boy his first loss of the season.
RAIDERS at BUCCANEERS – The Bucs looked great against the 49ers, but that is easy to do. The Raiders don’t have much defense but make up for it in offense. I think that this game has the makings of another shootout but I believe that the Raiders, having won four of their last five, will come out on top here.
CHARGERS at BRONCOS – A couple of weeks ago the Chargers made the Broncos look silly in front of a national audience. However, Trevor Siemian had just come back from a shoulder injury and Gary Kubiak was out for medical reasons. With the Chargers coming into Denver, and with Denver putting together a great Monday night performance last week, I expect the Broncos to win this one.
PACKERS at FALCONS – Everyone picked the Falcons to beat the Chargers last week, but they are instead on a two-game losing streak. The Packers have won three of their last four and have had some time to rest after playing last Thursday night. I think that the Packers will have the strategic advantage here, and be able to go back north with a win.
EAGLES at COWBOYS – This great-looking NFC East matchup is my GAME OF THE WEEK. I think that we will see two great young quarterbacks dueling, as well as two great defenses. I am honestly looking forward to watching this game and seeing who comes out on top. With these teams looking like such even match-ups, though, I usually try to pick the home team because of that home-field advantage, and we know Jerry Jones is going to do his best to fill up Cowboys Stadium. I call this one, on home-field alone, for the Cowboys.
VIKINGS at BEARS – This was, when the season began, another great matchup. But the Bears are not what we thought they were (that is, good) and the Vikings have been dominating most of their games, save for the Eagles game that may have been a preview of this year’s NFC Championship game. Even though Jay Cutler is set to return, I think that the Vikings will prevail.