Potential Jacksonville Season Scenarios – Divisional Comparison
By Luke Sims
Recently dream and nightmare scenarios or best and worst case scenarios have been the hot topic of the interwebs. H0w will the Jaguars do? How will the AFC South do as a whole? Will there be a middle ground? Or will everything be either doom and gloom or bright and glorious?
Daniel Lago did a very good job of outlining a best and worst case scenario for the Jaguars last week. Today, ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky published his deam/nightmare scenarios for the Jaguars.
Daniel has the Jaguars’ best case scenario at 12-4 and the worst case at 4-12. Kuharsky has the Jaguars at 10-6/4-12. Is there a happy medium? Is there a realistic scenario?
In order to make the playoffs, the Jags need to fare well in the six games they face against division opponents. Winning consistently in the division can do wonders for increasing a team’s playoff chances. How does Kuharsky have the Titans, Texans, and Colts measured for dream/nightmare scenarios? 11-5/5-11, 12-4/7-9, and 8-8/2-14 respectively.
I personally believe that if the Colts manage to put it all together they could go 9-7. I similarly doubt that the Titans can keep it together long enough to go 11-5 this year, but think 10-6 is a real possibility. I also think that the Texans have a much deeper nightmare situation at around 5-11 (that O-line is being entirely overhauled).
So, how can the Jags compete in a division that has teams with much higher ceilings and better nightmare scenarios (excluding the Colts). They’ll have to win against the division opponents.
I wish Kuharsky had laid out which games he thinks the Jaguars could win in the 2012 season, like Mr. Lago did. Unfortunately, he did not. But there is something to be said about rivalry games. They have more pressure, a heavier more frenzied feel, and passions boil over during them. Whether it’s Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson throwing punches on the field or the Jay Cutler/Philip Rivers word play that commanded the AFC West for so long, rivalries have a a way of affecting how a team plays.
And I think that the Jaguars have a chip on their shoulder much bigger than the other teams in the division.
Right now, Tennessee is happy with where they landed last season at 9-7,second place in the division. They outperformed their expectations and did well with a serviceable new quarterback and new face of the franchise waiting in the wings. But they were really an 8-8 team. I think that now they are a 9-7 team with the strength of their roster, but I don’t feel the same mentality that they had last year. A mentality that they needed to prove something – to show the league that they can be dominant franchise once again.
The Indianapolis Colts just aren’t who they used to be, and they learned that last year – in a pretty convincing manner I might add. They were beat into submission by nearly everybody. Their speed players were skilled enough to make game-changing impacts, their offense was abysmal, and the team slowly became defeated throughout the year. The offseason didn’t help that air of defeat. Team Owner Jim Irsay is acting like a cornered animal. He has done the right moves personnel wise, but he doesn’t have the bravado that he was afforded when when Peyton Manning was behind center. Rather than the confident Colts that were commonplace in 2000s, we now have a Colts team that warily watches the next team approach each week – whimpering before being forced into competition. The team is new and doesn’t seem to have anything to prove since the entire organization cleaned house from quarterback to general manager. Next year they’ll have something to prove, but this year the have little to compete for except development.
The Houston Texans have the biggest chip on their shoulder outside of the Jaguars. The team made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history this past season. The offense is explosive, Matt Schaub will be playing to ensure that the team can win next year. But they are comfortable on their throne at the top of the AFC South. They’ve been the darkhorse candidate for so many years and are finally the favorites. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much to make themselves stronger this offseason and have made some foolish personel moves – namely letting 2/5ths of its offensive line walk in free agency. They aren’t prime to keep their position atop the heap, but they aren’t yet aware. Just try saying the Texans may not do well and any fan will immediately call blasphemy.
The Jaguars, however, have been the most consistent threat for the title since the formation of the division in 2002. 2010 was their year to take the crown, but they fell short. 2011 was there year to compete again but Jack Del Rio and Co. shot themselves in the foot with poor personnel management. The Jaguars are hungry for that title. They’ve been abused by the national media for anything from blackouts to poor quarterback play. They’ve been ridiculed for their roster management. But it doesn’t matter because the team is playing to win in 2012. The Jaguars are one of the few teams that will be greater than the sum of its parts in 2012.
Taking the competitiveness that will be occurring in the division, I don’t see the Jaguars doing any worse than 3-3 (even if two of them are against the Colts) against divisional opponents. Factor in a win against the Vikings, maybe another two somewhere and a win against the Bills and the Dolphins the Jags are sitting at a pretty solid 7-9. Will it happen that way? Maybe not. But you can’t discount the passion that this team will have oozing out of its pores.
Rivalry games will tell the tale for the Jaguars in 2012. It won’t guarantee them a spot in the playoffs (even if they win all six), but it will give them solid experience and show the division that they won’t be muscled about like the Colts. Gabbert can, and will throw the Jaguars to victory – even if it is out of spite.
There’s more to football than Xs and Os. There’s more in a game than just performing a designated scheme. There’s passion, fire, intangibles that can’t be measured. And the Jags roster has that more than a lot of other teams right now.
So, with all due respect to Mr. Kuharsky and Mr. Lago, I think a different best/worst case scenario will have its way with the AFC South. This is how I see the teams doing on the whole with potential division matchup records:
Tennessee Titans: 10-6 (4-2)/7-9 (3-3)
Houston Texans: 12-4 (5-1)/5-11 (3-3)
Indianapolis Colts: 9-7 (3-3)/4-12 (2-4)
Jacksonville Jaguars: 10-6 (4-2)/6-10 (2-4)
Like them? Hate them? It doesn’t really matter, we’ll see how it plays out in the season. But think a little bit about what the teams will do within the division. I’m betting the Jags hover around 8-8 this year, but with a little bit of energy in those divisional matchups, it should be surprising if they make a leap much higher and outmuscle a couple teams for a higher place on the ladder.
– Luke N. Sims