A few times every season, a friend and I go to a bar, drink beer, and watch the early NFL games. We lament our fantasy football lineup choices, eat garbage food, and hope that watching a bunch of games at once is the best way to guarantee at least one or two are interesting.
In between pitchers of half-priced light beer recently, my friend said something that made me laugh out loud.
"The Jaguars could win the Super Bowl."
I laughed. He laughed. I bet if we told the people at the table next to us what he said, they'd laugh, too: You are a hilarious stranger and I am happy to share this space with you, for your joke about Blake Bortles going to a Super Bowl is hilarious.
Once our laughter faded, though, we were left with a realization that shook us to our core.
The Jaguars could go to the Super Bowl.
You should have seen us, chuckling heartily before facing the reality that the NFL has so many mediocre teams that the Jacksonville Jaguars getting to the Super Bowl is something that we as a society need to accept is a real possibility. Maybe you've gotten to the 200-word mark of this column, though, and you're not ready to embrace this very realistic possibility. You need more evidence.
Before we get to the Jaguars, legitimate championship contenders, tell me the team that's so dominant that the idea of the Jaguars winning it all can't even be entertained.
The Patriots? Oh sure, the team that can't stop anyone on defense with the 40-year-old quarterback who could quit at any moment to start a vegan cooking show he hosts in magic pajamas is unbeatable. Nice try. Who else?
The Packers? Aaron Rodgers is reading scripts for State Farm ads between now and the time his team is mathematically eliminated.
The Cowboys? Come on. Ezekiel Elliott could be suspended for the entire playoffs if that ever becomes official. Or maybe he won't, because figuring out how NFL justice exists in relation to federal judges is impossible.
The Chiefs? They've lost two straight and even if they are 14-2 and hosting the Jaguars in the divisional round, you can't rule out Andy Reid wasting the clock in the second half when the Chiefs are down 10.
OK, so you probably want the Jaguars' bona fides, not just the flaws of elite teams. Fair enough.
The Jaguars are 4-3 and tied for first place in the AFC South. Geography is the first reason why the Jaguars are Super Bowl contenders. Because of Ponce De Leon and the lines drawn by the NFL powers, the Jaguars get to play in the worst division in the NFL and maybe all of sports. They lost to the 4-3 Titans last month so they don't have the tiebreaker right now, but halfway through the season the Jaguars are in position to have a home playoff game and maybe even a bye, since they have the tiebreaker on the 5-2 Pittsburgh Steelers, who they crushed two weeks ago.
If the mediocrity of the NFL isn't enough to sway you to the Jaguars camp, how about the team's defense? Here's how the Jaguars rank defensively:
Yards per game: 6th
Passing yards per game: 2nd
Points per game: 1st
The Jaguars are allowing 15.7 points per game, and that includes two special teams touchdowns by the Rams in Week 6 and a fluke run by Bilal Powell when everyone thought he was down but he got up and kept running for a 75-yard touchdown (when he probably was down but the cameras didn't have the angle to prove it).
I'm always hearing about how defense wins championships, so why aren't we talking about the Jaguars defense that dominated the Steelers as contenders? If the Patriots and their pass-heavy offense are still the favorites, why isn't the team with an elite pass defense and cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey getting more attention? Is it the stigma of being the Jaguars? Shouldn't the team holding opponents to 16 points per game receive more love?
No. Of course, no. You're right. It's because they're the Jags. You've probably already replied to the tweet with the link to this story referencing "clickbait" even though it's not clickbait and you clearly don't understand the definition of clickbait.
But you know what? The Jaguars are Super Bowl contenders. Look at their upcoming schedule.
Their next five games are home against the Bengals and the Chargers, at the crummy Browns and the Carson Palmer–less Cardinals, and home against a Colts team they just romped in Indianapolis on Sunday. There's a decent chance the Jaguars are 8-4 in mid-December, perhaps even 9-3. And it's only partially because the Jaguars are showing signs of being a real football team. The NFL sucks and things like the Jaguars going to the playoffs when they were considering starting Chad Henne a few weeks ago are real possibilities.
There's reason to be skeptical after a win like the one against the Colts, but a 27-0 victory against anyone on the road when you don't have Leonard Fournette is impressive. Bortles threw for 330 yards while T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory combined for 169 yards. All a so-so team in a bad division has to do to get to a Super Bowl is win three (maybe even two) playoff games, and the Jaguars are positioning themselves for just that situation.
But fine. Bortles. He stinks. I get it. He throws a football as if it weighs 30 pounds and he has to sling it from his hip to get it downfield. I can't argue with that.
But you have to realize that teams with elite defenses (the Jaguars may have one) and elite running games (the Jaguars are averaging a league-best five yards per carry) don't need Rodgers or Brady to get to a Super Bowl. Sometimes championships are won based on circumstances, and the Jaguars existing in the AFC South is a terrific circumstance. All the Jags have to do is get to 10-6 or maybe even 9-7 and then have a few breaks go their way in the playoffs.
That worked out OK for the New York Giants a couple times.
Yeah, Bortles can screw that up. I know. He's one submarine-style pass in the flat getting returned for a touchdown away from ruining this entire premise.
That's the point, though—the NFL is so overwhelmingly average that the Jaguars have a chance at playing for a title, even if their quarterback isn't as good as an unemployed quarterback who's suing the league.
This could all be the pitchers of light beer talking on a Sunday, but you could make worse wagers than putting a few bucks on the Jaguars getting to a Super Bowl.