Every year in the NFL there are certain predictions that can be and often are made which raise no eyebrows. The Cardinals/Bengals will go to the Playoffs, the Browns will finish bottom of the AFC North, Andrew Luck will be an MVP candidate (actually haven’t seen much of this one this year). Seeing these same few teams/players tipped for Success/failure every year isn’t all that interesting. So instead of me sitting here telling you the Panthers have a good chance, I’m going to have a little look at only teams that missed the playoffs last year, ones that might not be at the forefront of the more casual fans minds when thinking about who has a shot this year.
Only seven times in the Superbowl Era has a team gone from having a .500 or worse season ( .500 means they went 8-8, above is a winning season, below is a losing one. In NFL teams win percentages are represented by a decimal number of the like- I’m not totally sure why, but when in Rome…) and gone on to lift the trophy the next year, although five of those times have been in the last fifteen years, credited to the introduction of the salary cap which allows weaker teams to get back to being competitive quickly. The Rams did it in 2000 having been 4-12 the year before. It’s happened a further four times since then (Ravens 2001, Patriots 2002, Giants 2006, Saints 2008) which is five times in the last fifteen years. Why not this year?
I’ve already written a pretty lengthy post about why the Chargers have a good chance, so I’ll avoid repeating myself. Instead I’ll start with the team who finished two places behind (or better) in the draft order.
The Jacksonville Jaguars. Last season; .313 (5-11)
The Jaguars season was not all doom and gloom despite the record. Notable performances from Allen Robinson (1400 yards, 14 TD) and Allen Hurns (1031 yards, 10TD), second year QB Blake Bortles threw 35 touchdowns, while showing he’s not the finished article yet but he’s moving on up. Offensively the Jaguars showed the ability to score, with 44 touchdowns all year. Their downfall came as a result of allowing the opposition to score 51 touchdowns against them. They did play the NFC south(Panthers, Saints, Falcons, Buccaneers) which was having an up year, having been the worst division the year before, and won no games against that division going 0-4. Getting the ball through the air was a real strength for them last year, so how do you build on that? You go out and sign the Conference’s leading rusher, formerly of the Jets, Chris Ivory. Not bad at all.
The Jaguars as I and many others saw it, were “The team that won the draft”. Picking fifth in the order, they took Jalen Ramsey in the first round, a highly rated cornerback who is expected to come in and help sure up that defense that leaked TDs last year.
This year the Jaguars play the NFC North, and the AFC West, and they’ll also be hosting their near annual Wembley game in week four, ‘at home’ to division rivals the Colts(see you there). Despite starting with a tough trip to Lambeau field to face the Packers, if it all gels together for the Jags they might well be a formidable side. Two first rounders added to the defense, the passing game complemented by the addition of running back Ivory who had a big year last year, and it’s easy to see the Jags improving on their 5-11 record. They’re currently 40/1 for the Superbowl.
More to follow