A team said to be rebuilding is actually contending.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are doing more with less; and they aren’t the only go-getters out there. There are several worthy candidates for the surprise team of the year, including the 5-4 Raiders, the 5-4 Chiefs, the 6-3 Chicago Bears, the 6-3 Buccaneers, along with the 5-4 Jaguars. These teams have came out of nowhere, proving they can contend with the big guns.
Although admitting that if the Texans' Glover Quinn actually batted the game’s final pass down instead of what he ended up doing, then Mike Thomas doesn’t make a marvelous 50-yard catch for the game’s final score at the end of regulation, and perhaps the Jaguars fall to 4-5; looking dramatically different than 4-5.
But good teams catch breaks. And the Jags have had plenty of those this year.
Jacksonville was a mediocre 7-9 last season, and were said to be at the bottom of the AFC South. But with their five wins, they are right in the thick of things. They certainly don’t pack the offensive punch that the Colts or Titans do, but they have a few things going their way. They are sixth in the NFL in rushing behind former second round pick Maurice Jones-Drew. The power back isn’t finding the endzone as much this season as compared to previous years, with only three rushing touchdowns, but field general David Garrard has really improved his game. He has dramatically improved in the red zone, and is using the deep pass more often to lead the team with 15 aerial touchdown strikes. Only halfway through the season, that number ties his record from the previous two years.
Though ranked 28th in total defense, they have a number of exposed weaknesses that surely the Browns could exploit. It didn’t used to be that way; they haven’t been able to muster the same kind of wall in the middle of ex-Jags John Henderson and Jag Marcus Stroud. Since the loss of the two largest human beings I’ve ever seen, they’ve been in the NFL pass rush cellar. And the loss of Aaron Kampman doesn’t help at all.
I really could not tell you why Jacksonville has been as successful as they have been this season. But I must acknowledge the fact that they have only beaten one winning team, the Colts (wins against Buffalo, Denver, and Dallas really aren’t that impressive) but they know Peyton Manning as well as anyone in the NFL. They have made big plays when it counts, and taken care of business at home.
It wasn’t long ago in which these two teams clashed. In Week 17 of 2009, the Browns ran the ball right down the Jaguars’ throats for 214 yards. Jacksonville, at the time, had little to play for, but this time, stakes will be higher and ever play becomes more critical. They have four of their final six games on the road, and play four of the league’s best teams.