Here’s a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who finished the season 10-6. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close:
Westgate odds to win Super Bowl LIII: 20-1
Should contend, but there are question marks: The Jaguars had a 10-point fourth-quarter lead over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium but couldn’t stop Tom Brady when they needed to. Several other events from that game showed the Jaguars -- who should be one of the best teams in the AFC in 2018 -- still have work to do before they can overcome the perennial conference powers.
The Jaguars have to decide whether they’re going to go with Blake Bortles in 2018 or try to upgrade with Kirk Cousins. Cousins would make the Jaguars significantly better, but he’d come with a hefty price tag. The Jaguars can afford him, but are they willing to pay? Is it better to roll with Bortles again and hope he makes the same kind of strides in his second full season in coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s system and use the money on additional playmakers?
Wide receiver Allen Robinson is expected to be back, but he’s coming off a torn ACL. The Jaguars need to give whichever quarterback starts more weapons on the outside. Receiver Marqise Lee is not expected back and it’s unclear what to expect out of second-year players Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole, who combined to catch just 10 passes for 167 yards and no touchdowns in three playoff games. The Jaguars have to add a pass-catching tight end, as well.
Not only will that help the quarterback, it will also help running back Leonard Fournette, who ran for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie. The Jaguars tried to run time off the clock and keep Brady off the field in the second half of the AFC title game, but managed just 41 yards on 15 carries (2.7 per carry). The Patriots used a strategy that every defense used against the Jaguars: Load the box to stop Fournette and make Bortles beat them. Bortles couldn’t do that consistently enough throughout the season. Beefing up an average offensive line, especially along the interior and at right tackle, is a significant need that must be addressed.
The defense finished first in the NFL against the pass and second in sacks, turnovers and points allowed, but it failed to get a critical stop on third-and-18 against the Patriots. The safety play was an issue in that game and had been in spots throughout the season, so that’s the one area on defense that has to be solidified in 2018.
Another thing not to be overlooked: The Jaguars played a fourth-place schedule in 2017 and they’ll have a first-place schedule in 2018. That includes games against division winners New England, Pittsburgh and Kansas City. The Jaguars also play the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in London. It’s a much tougher schedule and sometimes teams that have such a quick rise take a small step back the following season because of that.