It’s rare that a team jumps from last to first in a division. When it happens the world takes notice. The Saints rallied to change the “Aints” monicker they had developed for years. While the Jags didn’t place last in the AFC South during the 2011 season, it wasn’t pretty. The climb up from third in a tough division (which many pundits call a weak division….ridiculous) will be arduous all the same.
There has been plenty of schedule analysis done on the Jaguars. Some say we’ll go 5-11 again or even as good as 8-8. But there could be so much more! There may not be a Cinderella run like the Jaguars first run to the playoffs in 1996, but it could be close.
This year the team isn’t expected to do much. They are coming off a rough season that is part of a rebuilding year for a team that has been in transition longer than just last season. Going from 5-11 to 9-7 isn’t impossible (the Jags were 4-12 when they made that jump between ’95 and ’96) and could probably be done with the strength of the Jaguars roster.
I’m not saying that the team is perfectly similar to the first playoff team out of Jacksonville, but there are some marked similarities. Laurent Robinson is coming in as a free agent wide receiver and hopes to have a Jimmy Smith level impact. The running game will be strong with either Maurice Jones-Drew or Rashad Jennings carrying the load. Gabbert is coming off a season in which he threw for almost 100 more yards than Mark Brunell did in 1995.
The defenses are where the big difference lies. The 1995 team was ranked 28th in points and 21st in yards allowed. The ’11 Jaguars are coming off a season where they ranked 11th and 6th respectively.
The team is statistically sound and ready for a jump to the next level. Like the ’96 Jaguars they may just need a little luck to get into the playoffs at 9-7 and start tearing up the competition at each round of the playoffs. This won’t be a Cinderella story when everything ends once the clock strikes 12 – this will be the Jaguars Miracle Run.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims