Of all the pathetic motivational techniques in the locker room, “Nobody Believes in Us” might be the worst, especially when used by teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Georgia Bulldogs. It’s a cheap shortcut to self-motivation and a slap in the face to teams no one really believes in… you know, like the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Of all 32 teams in the NFL, no team is dismissed, disregarded and disrespected like the Jaguars. They play in the AFC South, the “Is Pepsi OK?” tournament. of divisions, and even there they fail. Since 2007, they have had exactly one season with double-digit wins, two playoff appearances and three playoff wins. They are the team most often sent to an NFL boarding school in Europe, the team that NFL officials sigh and send on any Thursday to fulfill the league’s duty that “everyone gets a national game.”
But here’s the thing: While the rest of the NFL world was thinking about Taylor Swift, throwing mud at the Patriots and trying to figure out if the Cowboys were finally legit, the Jaguars were quietly compiling a 6-2 record. tied with the Chiefs and Dolphins at the top of the AFC.
“The first half of the season, those first eight games, I think with all the travel, Thursday’s game, in and out of hotels, things like that, the guys handled it extremely well,” head coach Doug Pederson said after Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh. “I’m proud of the boys for that. I’m really proud to be 6-2 after the bye.”
It takes a little digging to find statistical evidence of the Jaguars’ offensive growth, but it’s there. Trevor Lawrence ranks in the top 10 in most major passing categories. Travis Etienne has more carries (151) than anyone else in the league and more touchdowns (7) than anyone not named Raheem Mostert. Etienne’s 583 rushing yards are just six shy of the league lead, although it’s worth noting that the Jags are not yet through their bye week.
Additionally, Jacksonville doesn’t light up highlight shows with spectacular plays. Lawrence, Etienne and Christian Kirk don’t appear on lists like NFL Next Gen Stats’ “Remarkable Rushes” or “Improbable Completions.” They just put in the work and get the job done, beating up the teams they’re supposed to beat up – you know, like the Jaguars themselves used to be.
You could trace the lineage of this current Jaguars streak – there’s a term that doesn’t get much work – to the selection of Lawrence at No. 1 in 2021 or the hiring of Doug Pederson after the unceremonious and much-needed firing of Urban Meyer. But the defining point for this team — for the entire franchise, actually — came during last season’s wild-card round, when the Jaguars rallied from a 27-0 deficit to beat the Chargers.
This is the kind of comeback that convinces a team, a franchise, an entire city that more is possible. No longer were Jacksonville fans just a bunch of teal-and-black ’90s remnants gathering at the stadium, best known as the home of the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party. Now Jags fans have an identity that isn’t (entirely) based on a stadium with pools in it. This is great news for this franchise, because a team that knows it can come back from four possessions down is a team that is never truly out of the game.
“We’ll never get out,” Lawrence said in the aftermath of that miraculous victory. “If you believe and everyone believes, it’s cool what you can achieve.” He’s carried that attitude over to this season and it’s resonated in Jacksonville like classic Van Halen.
The question for Jacksonville is how much of that gaudy 6-2 record is built on sand. The crowning victory of the season so far is a 25-20 victory in Week 5 over Buffalo, although the game was in London and the Bills looked disheveled and jet-lagged. Additionally, the Jags have gotten fat and happy feasting on underperforming players like the Colts and Steelers and are lucky enough to win the even worse NFC South than their cross-conference opponent.
Jacksonville lost to the Chiefs in Week 2 – no shame, most teams do – which leaves only an unexpected 37-17 loss to Houston in Week 3 as an outlier. Aside from this debacle, Jacksonville’s defense has not allowed more than 24 points in a game.
George Pickens of Pittsburgh learned the hard way not to write off Jacksonville. He dismissed Jacksonville as “A kind of defense of hope” earlier this week, and the Jaguars took it personally. In a 20-10 win, Jacksonville held Pittsburgh without a first down in the first half and 78 total yards rushing. Pickens had exactly one catch for 22 yards.
“If you provide us with bulletin board material like that, obviously we’re going to come out and really show you how we play this game,” safety Rayshawn Jenkins said. “He’s a young guy and hopefully he’ll learn not to go down the wrong path.” Then let that be a lesson.
The rest of the season is mostly positive for Jacksonville – some legitimate playoff contenders (San Francisco, Cincinnati, Baltimore) and the remaining division and NFC South games. This is more than just doable, it’s a path for Jacksonville to win just its third league title of the millennium (and the second was last year).
The AFC is deep this year and the Jaguars have yet to prove they are ready to take the next step forward in the postseason. But as the Chargers can attest, taking the Lawrence-Pederson Jags for granted is unwise.