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The Jacksonville Jaguars Are in Control of the AFC South

The Jaguars had one of their most important games in years, and the team came out and won to take first place in the AFC South by two games.

After Sunday’s close win over the red-hot Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in control of the AFC South. For a brief moment, before the Chiefs came back and won and the Ravens won later that evening, the Jaguars were in the top spot in the entire AFC. Houston came into the game winners of three straight and four of their last five. Jacksonville was one week removed from a 34-3 drubbing by the San Francisco 49ers and questions about the team abounded. Most of those questions have been answered with two divisional wins when they needed them most. The Jaguars playoff chances increased exponentially on Sunday when they took a commanding two-game lead over the rest of the division with just six games to play.

A mere two years ago, the Jaguars were the laughingstock of the NFL. They finished the 2021 season 3-14 after going 1-15 in 2020. They had the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft two years in a row. The team now sits at 8-3 and they look destined to play at least one playoff game at home this year. The big question is, “What has changed?” Is it coaching, talent, chemistry, or some combination of each? The answer is that, after all these years, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a good football team. Their win over the Texans showed us a lot about who they are and how they win.

The Jaguars Playoff Chances Grow Every Week

Trevor Lawrence Can Throw the Football

Trevor Lawrence had his first 300+-yard game against the Texans and it was needed. He also threw for one touchdown and ran for another while the one interception he threw was a direct result of poor officiating rather than a bad throw/decision by Lawrence. Lawrence was making every throw and he was very accurate as well. When Lawrence plays like he did on Sunday, the Jaguars will be a very hard team to beat.

The Jaguars Need the Old Travis Etienne

At some point someone has to tell the truth about Travis Etienne: he is not having a good year. His 50 yards on 20 carries took his per-carry average down to 3.7 yards for the season. Etienne has not averaged more than four yards per carry in the past six games. He is also not catching the ball out of the backfield a lot lately either. If Etienne does not put it together before the playoffs, the Jaguars are going to struggle as a one-dimensional offense.

Josh Allen Is a Beast

With 12 sacks on the year, Josh Allen is tied for fourth in the league. Maybe more impressively, he is the only lineman in Jacksonville that can get to the quarterback. Travon Walker, in just his second year in the NFL, is proving to be a bust as an edge rusher. The interior of the line barely gets a push, and Mike Caldwell’s blitzes have been used very sparingly. Josh Allen has been forced to be a one-man wrecking crew and so far, it is working.

The Ezra Cleveland Signing Ended Up Being Brilliant

Cam Robinson went down with an injury and will be on IR until at least December 31. GM Trent Baalke’s signing of Ezra Cleveland looks brilliant right now. With Walker Little and Ezra Cleveland anchoring the left side of the line, that duo could be even better than the Robinson/Little tandem that was there before. Walker Little played as well as Robinson has when given the chance, and Cleveland is back in his natural position at left guard. It will be interesting to see if Cleveland and Little can start to open up some holes for Etienne and protect Lawrence simultaneously.

Calvin Ridley Has to Catch the Ball

There is not much more to say than Calvin Ridley has to catch the ball. He had three drops in the first matchup and then dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass on Sunday. Ridley was brought in to be this team’s No. 1 receiver, and so far he has left quite a few yards and first downs on the field. He has four official drops on the year, but two of them would have been touchdown receptions and he really has more than just the four official drops. Ridley has to be consistent as he and Trevor Lawrence try to build something together.

The Devin Lloyd/Foye Oluokon Combo Is One of the Best in the NFL

Jacksonville’s ILB are two of the best in the game. The Jaguars defense is 20th overall, fourth against the rush and 29th against the pass. Every other position group has struggled at some point this season, but not Oluokon and Lloyd. They have been steady, athletic, and prone to making big plays. Oluokon leads the defense well while Devin Lloyd relies on his incredible athleticism to make big plays on defense. This tandem does not get talked about as much as some of the stars on this team, but these ILBs can do a little bit of everything including holding this defense together.

Main Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports


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