Things can (and will often) change in the blink of an eye in the NFL. Just a couple weeks ago, there was chatter about the Jacksonville Jaguars holding the No. 1 seed in the AFC. After back-to-back losses, talks about them clinching a playoff BYE have waned considerably.
The good news is that the Jags are still poised to make the postseason by virtue of having the best record in the division, so where do they stand in NFL Power Rankings after the 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns? They've managed to remain in the top 10 but closer to the bottom, than the top. The Bleacher Report staff has them at No. 8, one spot above Cleveland, the team that beat them in Week 14.
Gary Davenport of B/R argues that the loss stings but they aren't "going to blow the postseason altogether," noting that they'll only face a team with a winning record the rest of the way, and that's the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. On the other hand, Davenport doesn't think Jacksonville is a viable Super Bowl contender, with all the injuries they're dealing with.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports placed the Jaguars at No. 9, a drop of one spot compared to last week. Prisco argues that they can forget about the No. 1 seed after back-to-back losses. Meanwhile, the Jags barely cracked the top 10 in ESPN's Nation power ranking.
Michael DiRocco of ESPN doesn't dwelve much into the loss to the Browns and doesn't give a reason for their spot in the ranking. Instead, he focuses on one positive heading into Week 15, and that's their third-down conversion rate has a notable improvement: From 29.7 percent in Weeks 1 to 4 to 40.0 percent from Week 5 onward.
The Jaguars must overcome injuries get back on track to finish the season strong
Not to make excuses, but injuries have depleted several position groups, including the secondary and the offensive line. Against the Browns, they were down to their fourth left tackle, with Blake Hance filling in for Ezra Cleveland, who was replacing Walker Little to begin with. Similarly, Montaric Brown and Gregory Junior were substituting for Tyson Campbell, and Tre Herndon respectively.
That said, injuries are an inherent part of the sport and the best teams in the league find a way to overcome them. As defensive end Dawuane Smoot recently noted during a recent exchange with the media, the Jaguars are still 8-5. They need to make adjustments with the personnel they currently have and go back to the formula that has helped them win eight games this season.
Working in their favor is that both the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts lost in Week 14, so Jacksonville still has a one-game lead in the division. Even if they lose to the Ravens, they have a favorable schedule to end the season.
That said, the Jags must flip the switch on. Otherwise, they run the risk of falling behind their division foes and having to qualify for the postseason as a wild card. It's true that it doesn't matter how you get in. Once you make it, you have a shot, but the Jags could be one and done, regardless of how they qualify if they keep playing the way they have the past two weeks. They must clean up communication issues, drops of offense, and execution overall.
Against the Browns, they had drops that would've put them in a position to score. On defense, they made enough stops to give the offense a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter but they missed 12 tackles and gave up too many plays. Players have to execute, and the coaching staff must do a better job of putting them in a position to make plays, something they haven't done the last two games.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have taken step several steps forward in 2023 but they're also committing too many mistakes. That has kept them out of the top 5 in Power Rankings and could potentially come back to haunt them in the postseason. Time is running out for them to fix all the issues that have held them back.