We have already outlined a path to the playoffs for the Detroit Lions. It is a very plausible scenario. Many Lions fans believe their team has become “America’s Team” due to the increase in national coverage. If the Lions can handle their business these next three weeks, they will likely make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. They still need help from other teams. However, a team that should be talked about more is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars truly control their own destiny. If they win their next two games (@ HOU, vs. TEN), they will be crowned AFC South champions for the first time since 2017. Two things stand out here. First, the Titans will be without QB Ryan Tannehill. He was ruled out for the season with an ankle injury. The Jaguars already beat Tennessee (in Tennessee) earlier this season. I like the Jags chances even more this time around at home and against rookie Malik Willis.
Additionally, most pundits counted out the Jaguars heading into the season. It was a two-horse race between the Titans and Indianapolis Colts. People may have overvalued the Matt Ryan addition, and even I thought the move and natural development of the team would lead to a division title. Boy were we wrong.
Now, here we are in Week 16.
The Jaguars already took care of business on Thursday night against the Jets, winning 19-3. They have won four of their last five games. The one loss coming to the Lions in a 40-14 blowout. However, I like the Jags chances of winning out and stealing the AFC South crown than the odds of the Lions making the playoffs entirely. This would be huge for the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they are in Year 2 of Trevor Lawrence’s career as well as their first year with Doug Pederson as head coach. Their offense is hitting its stride right now. They have stacked multiple credible wins this season against expected playoff teams.
The Travon Walker pick first overall may or may not work out for the Jags. The Lions are enjoying Aidan Hutchinson, the player taken right after Walker. Hutch is a top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Giants are enjoying Kayvon Thibodeaux, as he is ending the season very strong. Walker can be a great player and is expected to be a cornerstone player for the Jags franchise. Seems like all three teams walked away happy.
Does this mean that the Jaguars are having a better rebuild than Detroit???
No. Although the Jacksonville Jaguars winning the division would provide an extreme confidence boost, they still have a worse roster than the Lions. The Lions have a better leadership group overall than the Jaguars. More fans have their faith in Brad Holmes to construct a dynasty than Trent Baalke. The Lions already proved they were the better team by a mile a few weeks ago. Both teams are on the same trajectory. They are both good storylines, and a lot of pundits would like to see both teams make the playoffs. Both teams deserve a spot in their respective conferences.
On the other hand, you cannot argue with tangible success. The Jaguars winning the division (despite how underwhelming it was) still says a lot more about their squad. They are more likely to win a playoff game this season than the Lions. Although many Lions fans like their chances going up against Minnesota for a third time this year, the Lions are just as exploitable.
Two possible teams the Jaguars may face at home would be the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers. Jacksonville already beat both of these teams this season. They would give both Baltimore and LA a run for their money if they squared off again.
Again, this is not a comparison between the Jaguars and Lions. The point is that most of the media attention is on the Lions and how scary they could be in the playoffs. The Jaguars have been flying under the radar. They could be last year’s Cincinnati Bengals.
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