While the NFL season starts in September, things tend to truly heat up in December. Teams that got off to a slow start, can get to the playoffs if they finish strong. The Jacksonville Jaguars were one such example last year. Following a 2-6 start, they got into a hot streak and won seven of their last eight games. It's December once again and the Jags find themselves playing meaningful football late in the season for the second straight year. This time though, they're competing for the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC.
You read that right! The Jags are in the hunt for a postseason BYE. While they seem like a lock to win the division and secure a trip to the playoffs, they're aiming higher heading into Week 13. By Beating the Bengals on Monday Night Football, they'll get to first place in the conference.
Before Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens were No. 1 in the AFC while Jacksonville was in a three-way tie with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins for second place. Both the Ravens and Miami, pushing them to 9-3. On the other hand, Kansas City's loss to the Green Bay Packers put them one game behind Baltimore and the Dolphins.
By virtue of owning tiebreakers due to the strength of their schedule, the Jaguars could move to first place in the AFC South if they beat Cincy. Conversely, they would fall to No. 4, behind the Chiefs if they lose in Week 13.
The Jaguars must take it one game at a time if they want to seize the No. 1 AFC seed
Moving to No. 1 in the AFC would be great for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Next, they would need to make sure they don't lose it to either the Ravens or the Chiefs. After all, there will be five weeks left of football. Although the Cleveland Browns lost Deshaun Watson for the season, they're still in the in the hunt at 7-5. They're coming off a loss to the Los Angeles Rams, so they'll look to bounce back when they face the Jaguars in Week 14.
After the Browns, the Jaguars will face the Ravens. Those two games are critical and will ultimately be a factor in whether Jacksonville clinches the No. 1 seed. Having said that, there are a few things working in their favor. For starters, they've played much better in recent weeks. Their offense is clicking and Trevor Lawrence is healthy or as close as he can be after dealing with a knee injury.
The defense, led by outside linebacker Josh Allen, is also playing well. Though they've given lots of yardage, they've done a good job of bringing the heat and keeping opponents out of the end zone. It hasn't always been pretty but they've gotten the job done. "Gritty, not pretty," as linebacker Foyesade Oluokun would say.
Also, after the the Browns and Baltimore, the Jaguars' remaining schedule with be manageable with games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Carolina Panthers, and the Tennessee Titans in the finale. It's fair to say that the Ravens are the toughtest team the Jags will face, and going 4-2, or 5-1 the next six weeks is within the realm of possibility.
For the sake of argument, let's say the Jaguars win four of their next six games. That would give them a 12-5 record. Would that be enough to seize the No. 1 seed? It's hard to tell. Simply, there's too much time left in the season to make a guarantee. For the time being, they must take care of business and beat the Bengals on Monday Night Football.