The NFL Playoffs are set to begin in a couple of weeks. Both the AFC and NFC have strong contenders to hoist that Lombardi trophy in victory this coming February 2018. We all know about the perineal contenders in the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons. There are some surprising young teams with Super Bowl aspirations that may very well make it to the big dance. The Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars both have young and talent roster. Each team has a new coaching staff and are poised to make the playoffs with opportunities to win their respective division. Can either of these teams win it all? Time will tell.  But for this issue, we take a deeper look at the Jaguars and their possible road to the Super Bowl.

During the offseason, The Jaguars made significant changes in its football operating model as well as coaching staff. The team brought back former head coach Tom Coughlin to run its football operations. Coach Coughlin was a key figure in turning the Jags into an annual playoff caliber team when the team was established in the mid 1990’s. He later transitioned as the head coach of the New York Giants where he won two Super Bowl championships. As the VP of operations, he immediately hire a new coach in Doug Marrone because they both share the same philosophy in assembling and coaching a NFL Franchise; run the ball and stop the run. This is why in the NFL Draft they select LSU Running Back Leonard Fournette and Alabama Left Tackle Cam Robinson with their first two picks. They also brought three key players on defense in free agency in pro bowler Calais Campbell, A. J. Bouye and former Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church. The roster already had budding talent with Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler Jr., Yannick Ngakoue, Allen Robinson and more, but they lack discipline at times which is why they struggle with loosing seasons for almost a decade. This year is different. The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars are officially in the conversation for a NFL championship.
Jacksonville Jaguars
DEFENSE
During the regular season, The Jaguars had beaten teams like the Houston Texans (opener) with 10 sacks and defensive touchdown and throttle the Pittsburgh Steelers with 5 interceptions all while leading the league in rushing, controlling the tempo of the game.
 The Jaguars have the number one ranked defensive and they are number one in points allowed per game (14.1), passing yard (162) takeaways (25), sacks (41) and scoring touchdowns (6). They did struggle early in the year in run defense.
Defensive Tackle 
To fix that problem, they acquired pro bowler defensive tackle and former first round Marcell Dareus from the Buffalo Bills via trade. They went from ranking 32 (last) against the run to 16th within weeks since he’s been on the team. His additions gives depth and rotation and allows form Super Bowl champion to  Malik Jackson to flourish in one-on-one interior matchups. Those are just the defensive tackles. The defense ends are playing at an extremely HIGH level.
Defensive Ends
Calais Campbell leads the league in sacks in 11.5. He’s arguably the Defensive Player of the Year as he will go down as the biggest free agent signing in team history. Second year defense end Yannick Ngakoue has 10 sacks and multiple strip-sack fumbles that has lead to game winning defensive touchdowns. Former top-five pick Dante Fowler Jr. is having a breakout season with his 6.5 sacks.
Linebackers
Telvin Smith can flat out cover all skill players including wide receivers. At 6’3 and 215lbs, he’s not the prototypical outside linebacker. His speed, ability to shed tackles and game changing players has him pro bowl consideration.
Myles Jack is in his second year. He has progressed well. He plays “Sam” linebacker in based personnel and middle linebacker in the Jaguars nickel package. Both Smith and Jack are arguably the best speed linebacker duo in the game. Every week, they give offenses nightmares with their ability to cover “move” tight ends and running backs.
Paul “Poz” Posluszny is the veteran of the crew. Although his role has diminished due to the emergence of Jack, Poz is still one of the best middle linebackers in the game with his leadership (team captain) and exceptional tackling ability.
Defensive Backs
Jalen Ramsey is arguably the best corner in the game. A rare combination of size and speed, Ramsey ability to tackle (hits like a safety; see Ronnie Lott) and cover literally make opposing offensive throw in his opposite direction. That’s where you will have to deal with A. J. Bouye (4 interceptions) who is savvy player who often runs the receiver routes base on his attention to detail and film study.
The safeties are playing at a high level with Tashaun Gipson and Church (each with multiple interceptions) understand the zone concepts.
Defense wins championships and the Jaguars on defense is playing at an exceptional level. Many analysts are comparing this defense to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens’ defensive. Yes, that team won the Super Bowl.
OFFENSE
Drafting Leonard Fournette was a mind state changer for the organization. Although the team had Chris Ivory and T. J. Yeldon, Fournette was thought of being a “generational” player which are rare in today’s NFL. He is the focal point of the offense.
Quarterback
Blake Bortles time in Jacksonville has left a lot to be desired. The former top five pick has shown moments of being a franchise quarterback with his strong arm and scrambling ability, but his decision making in keep moments of the game has led to costly turnovers. Bortles has all the attributes to be the “guy”. If he can minimize his mistakes and stay focus though out the game, the Jags chances of lifting up the SB trophy can be realized. So far, this season, he has been average with game winning drives and turnovers that has cost the Jaguars a few games.
 
Running Back
A healthy Leonard Fournette. Enough said.
Wide Receiver & Tight Ends
A crush blow was delivered to the Jaguars when it lost its star receiver Allen Robinson to season ending injury. Both Marqise Lee (contract year) and Allen Hurns were penciled to take the bulk load of the targets and catches. Both wideouts are having a good year, but at the #1 wide receiver position that the team needs to keep 9 men from being in the box to stop Fournette.
The team also hopes rookies Dede Westbrook (just came off mid season IR) and Keelan Cole continues to develop to have two legitimate 9 route guys for the postseason.
Mercedes Lewis (ten years in the league) still shows he has juice. He has 5 touchdowns and is still known for being the best block tight end in the NFL.
Offensive Line
The offense line is spearheaded by center Brandon Linder who is one of the best in the business. The line was a big question mark coming into the season. They have play about expectations with leading the NFL in rushing yards per game with 113.1. Rookie left tackle Cam Robinson has showed some flashes. Staying healthy is key as both Patrick Omameh and right tackle Jermey Parnell has missed significant time due to injuries.
FINAL ASSESSMENT
The Jacksonville Jaguars has been subpar in recent memory, but this season is much different. They have been collecting top five talent over the last few drafts and they are starting to pay dividends. They have the formula to be in every game with their top rated defense and ball controlling offense. The Jaguars are built to compete with all 32 teams and this post season, you may see them in the Super Bowl. Tom Coughlin did it before and he assembled a team this time that can do it again.
Photo Credit:
Calais Campbell – Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle
Jalen Ramsey – Getty Images
Leonard Fournette – Logan Bowles/Getty Images