With the second half of the 2018 season about to start on Monday, here is a look at how the rest of the schedule could play out for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There is no need to panic. As hard as it is to believe, the Jacksonville Jaguars control their own destiny. When I say that I mean this team determines whether it will finish the season with a high draft pick – right now they sit ninth in the NFL Draft order – or do they scratch and claw for a playoff berth and make the rest of the AFC nervous?
The NFL is one of those leagues where the unexpected happens. Teams catch lightning in a bottle. The Jaguars have the studs on defense to lead this team to the second season. The offense gets Leonard Fournette back starting next week, which should take some of the burden off quarterback Blake Bortles and the passing game.
The Jaguars are 3-5 and currently in third place in the AFC South. A remaining schedule that is a mixed bag of potential awaits the 53 players and the coaching staff next Sunday. Here is how I see the second half of 2018 playing out for the Black and Teal.
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Nov. 11 – at the Indianapolis Colts: If Jacksonville is going to make a run to the playoffs, it begins one game at a time. I know it sounds cliche, but beating the Colts is a BIG deal.
Both teams are 3-5 and despite Indianapolis having suffered more losses than wins, having Andrew Luck on their side is a true test for the Jaguars defense. Can they halt the Indianapolis passing game and get off the field on third down?
Can Bortles use the run game much like last season on the road to sustain long scoring drives and eat up the clock? Jaguars win their first game in six weeks, 23-16.
Nov. 18 – vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers: The matchup everyone wants to see besides the two played against the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Last week, I told my father prior to the game in London, the Jaguars could beat the Patriots, Eagles, and Steelers and still miss the playoffs. We all know that did not happen with the 24-18 loss last week. But there is a chance for the Jaguars to prove they still own Pittsburgh.
Bortles must play another mistake-free game for that to happen. While this one is close and Jacksonville continues to run the ball better, Pittsburgh gets its revenge on a national stage, 27-21.
Nov. 25 – at the Buffalo Bills: The Jaguars on the rebound. With six losses, the thought of the playoffs become dim. At 4-6, this is a MUST WIN game on the road in a hostile environment. Good thing for the Jaguars, the Bills quarterback situation is in worse shape than their own.
I expect the Jaguars to continue to run the football and control the clock. I also suspect the defense will harass whoever is the signal caller in this game. A post-Thanksgiving treat is in the offing. Look for the Jaguars to hold the Buffalo offense to single digits in this one.
Jacksonville comes back home with a victory, 30-9 and is 5-6 this season.
Dec. 2 – vs. the Indianapolis Colts: This is an opportunity to get back to .500 in front of the home crowd and one of the last two games at TIAA Bank Field for the year.
The Colts are still a team on the outside looking in. Much Like Jacksonville, they need this win. Luck once again faces a stifling defense that hurries him around the pocket most of the game. This might be a six-sack day for the front four, which could also lead to a defensive touchdown.
Hopefully, the less than sellout crowd watching will appreciate the effort. Jaguars win 24-10. Bye the way, Jacksonville is 6-6 on the season.
Dec. 6 – at the Tennessee Titans: I have a hard time with this one. The Titans are a hard team to figure out and have Jacksonville’s number the past three games. Both teams are fighting for a playoff berth.
The difference here is the defense, which seems to have had a fire lit under its seat by defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Defensive end Calais Campbell said he would play harder the second half of the season and he has done just that.
Dec. 16 – vs. the Washington Redskins: This is the game I think most fans have pointed to and asked, “what if?” What if the Jaguars had put all their eggs in one basket and signed Kirk Cousins this offseason? What if the money they used to sign guard Andrew Norwell was used to get a signal caller who was more consistent?
The Redskins are flying under the radar at 5-2 right now and could easily be in the playoff mix by the time this game is played. I am hoping the Jaguars defense will be enough to “will” this team to victory, but playing in the Nation’s Capitol is not easy.
Cousins and the home team end Jacksonville’s playoff hopes, 20-16.
Dec. 23 – at the Miami Dolphins: I believe the Jaguars should face both Tampa Bay and Miami each year as in-state rivals. I know that is not plausible with divisional games and rotating conference matchups.
That said, the Jaguars should be able to rattle Ryan Tannehill enough that he coughs this game up and the road team earns an important win on the road. It may not be enough to earn a wild-card berth, but the Jaguars are 8-7 this season with one game left. Jacksonville rolls in this one, 28-14.
Dec. 30 – at the Houston Texans: This is another one of those games where the fans still feel the team should have made a run at Deshaun Watson. Playing the Texans on the road is not an easy task and with nothing to play for, how does this team react?
The Texans defense is back to its old ways of pressuring Bortles and playing the run. J.J. Watt is healthy. Jadeveon Clowney is a terror. Oh, and the team still has DeAndre Hopkins on the outside to catch the football. Sounds like a recipe for a long day.
The Texans win the AFC South and the game, 21-17. Jacksonville finishes the season 8-8.