With the draft over and most outlets posting their season predictions, the Jacksonville Jaguars received an optimistic projection from Football Outsiders.
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t garnered much support from the national media this offseason (outside of the innocuous “winning the draft” or “winning the offseason” puff pieces) with good reason – the Jaguars have been bad for several seasons in a row now.
After getting everyone excited for a breakout year in 2016, it’s reasonable to temper expectations for the Jaguars until they actually play well enough to be relevant again.
That being said, it’s becoming harder to ignore the talent on the roster, especially on defense.
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Football Outsiders, the original analytics powerhouse, came out with their season projections and they are quite friendly to the Jaguars:
"Tennessee Titans: 8-8 (8.3 mean wins; SOS: 29)Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8 (7.6 mean wins; SOS: 31)Indianapolis Colts: 7-9 (7.3 mean wins; SOS: 30)Houston Texans: 6-10 (6.0 mean wins; SOS: 10)On the basis of play-by-play performance, the Titans were the best team in the division last season, ranked 15th in our DVOA ratings. They’ve made some strong free-agent additions on defense, though the decision to cut cornerback Jason McCourty is curious. Our system also buys into the Jaguars a little bit. They were dead last in defensive turnovers per drive, a strong indicator of future improvement, and eventually drafting all that defensive talent and signing free agents such as Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye has to pay off. Of course, given the state of the Jaguars’ offense, it’s still not likely to pay off with a playoff appearance, but the team should at least be competitive."
While the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans tie for the division lead here, Football Outsiders technically has the Titans as the better overall team with more projected wins on average. The Jaguars benefit here from the concept of rounding to the nearest integer, but they also wouldn’t win the division in this scenario because of a lower strength of schedule.
From the analysis, it seems FO is counting on the Jaguars defense to carry them to respectability. They are also effectively giving them no credit on the offensive side of the ball, likely because of the horrific play of Blake Bortles last year.
My main takeaway is this – if the Jaguars can get anything remotely resembling functionality from Bortles, then there’s a good chance the Jaguars will be in a good position to win the division. If he does crash and burn however, the defense should be able to at least keep most of the games close.
This has been the theme of the offseason – Bortles is the driving force of the 2017 season – and will remain so until we see the 4th-year quarterback taking meaningful snaps in September.