NFL | NCAA Football

NFL: The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Second Half Turnaround

There are nine games remaining on the Jacksonville Jaguars schedule. All of them are winnable. Especially the first six games once they return from their bye week to play the New York Jets at home.

If there is a team to keep an eye on once the second half of the season starts, it might be these Jaguars. That’s not my homerism talking, that’s the notion that the team – which is 2-5 and should be 4-3 or even 5-2 – is in a division that is arguably the weakest in the NFL. Teams can make the playoffs with a losing record and once you get to the dance, everything else changes.

Just ask the 1996 Jaguars who went on a miraculous run to reach the AFC Title game.

I’m also not calling my shot here or predicting the post season, I’m just keenly aware of how this team can look after a huge win (albeit with major issues to fix on defense) and a little momentum. Everything has to fall into place for this team, but for some reason – again not trying to play favorites – this looks like a franchise who could make a solid leap toward relevance.

Here are a few reasons this could happen…

OFFENSIVE FIRE POWER

If you are not a Jags fan, you are not aware of the changes in the offense that have been woeful the past two seasons to the tune of 15 points per game. Now a game plan that is moving the football down the field (thank you offensive coordinator, Greg Olson) Jacksonville is scoring 21 points a game and has shown it can score in bunches.

The play of quarterback Blake Bortles is much improved in his second season, as he has elevated himself to a top 10 passer statistically. He needs to eliminate the huge interceptions that have led to touchdowns for the opposition (and killer pick-6 plays). He also needs to stop locking in on receivers. But is there a quarterback in the league who has shown this much improvement?

The combination of wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are the best young tandem in the league right now. They, along with a healthy Julius Thomas and a sneaky Bryan Walters in the slot give this team solid options across the field.

And let’s not forget that there is a rookie running back in TJ Yeldon who looks the part of the bellcow runner. Yes, things are taking shape. There are weapons and the coaching staff aren’t afraid to use them.

THE SCHEDULE

Like I mentioned, the Jaguars have an easier schedule the second half of the year. Right now, only the Jets and the Atlanta Falcons have a winning record and the first six games out of the gate are not intimidating.

The Jets, Baltimore and Tennessee open the stanza, where this team could easily jump to 5-5 at the 10-game mark. That means playoff talk in a woeful AFC Conference. It also means this team could control its own destiny if Indianapolis and Houston continue to show the Jekyll and Hyde mentality they both have displayed this season.

Who would have thought Andrew Luck would have a statistically worse season than Bortles or the majority of the quarterbacks in the NFL? If the Jaguars can win those games and then beat Indianapolis and San Diego at home, this is a team NFL franchises will worry about.

The games against Atlanta and New Orleans present challenges. I think they will beat Jacksonville, but stranger things have happened. Winning at home against the Falcons will be easier than winning on the road in the Big Easy.

This is a team that can and should finish 8-8 this year.

COACHING FOR HIS CAREER

Everything knows this is a turning point season for Gus Bradley and his coaching staff. After a 9-30 start to his career, there has to be a winning streak somewhere along the way to keep his job.

There have been reports that Bradley will keep his job because this team was gutted in 2013 and the learning curve has been challenged a bit. The first season is a wash. Last season was the first step. This season, there is life in the offense and the defense showed more pass rush against Buffalo than it has all season. Could that be the catalyst that turns the unit around? It has to.

Look for more aggression on the defensive side of the ball – the calling card for Bradley in the first place.

Injuries have taken their toll on this team, but players are coming back healthier and the roster will play with a full deck.

If Bradley, who says all the right things and makes you excited about this team, can finally find the magic wand to winning, there won’t be talk of job security of this team on a list to move anywhere.

If Bradley fails in Jacksonville, the odds on him getting another head gig are slim. This is a win or else town and a win or else season for the former defensive coordinator.

In the end, winning cures everything.

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