I must admit, all year I have refused to believe that the Jacksonville Jaguars were a good team, not to mention a serious playoff contender. This mostly came from the ex-girlfriend type anger that I continue to have with Doug Marrone. Do you blame me? The guy stood in front of his team after a 9-7 finish, and told them that he was looking forward to the offseason with them and building on the teams’ first winning season in a decade, just to inform those same players 24 hours later, via text message, that he was quitting on them. He was taking his $4 million dollars and skipping town, quitting on his players and quitting the rare, highly coveted job of an NFL Head Coach. But, I digress. As the Bills prepare for their first playoff game this century, I wanted to take a closer look at who the Jaguars are as a team and how they finished 10- 6 to end their own post-season drought of 10 years.
After taking a close look the stats from every Jaguars game this year I have to admit that they are a solid football team. This will not be an easy game for the Bills.
How the Jaguars win:
While looking at how the Jaguars win, it looked very familiar to the Bills approach. That is: play great defense and take the ball away. On offense, run the ball and limit turnovers. Simply put, the Jaguars play “Buffalo Bills style” football better than the Buffalo Bills do. That is what I have concluded after looking into their season and how they won, and lost, football games.
While looking at their 10 wins, the trends that continue to show up were:
- +2 or +4 turnover margin
- Dominating defensive performance
- Efficient QB play by Bortles
How the Jaguars lose:
While looking at their 6 losses, the trends were:
- -2 or -3 turnover margin
- Bad offensive showing
- Bad QB play by Bortles
While these trends seem somewhat obvious when it comes to winning and losing in the NFL, they are not always the case. For example, the 1st and 3rd best turnover margin teams are not in the playoffs (Baltimore and LA Chargers), while the Titans (8th worse turnover margin) are in the playoffs. To negate turnover differential, teams need either very strong QB play or very strong defensive play.
The Jaguars key to their success, much like the Bills, is their defense. They have played better defense than the Bills this year, and also have received better offensive production. You have to look long and hard to find a weakness on the defensive side of the ball for Jacksonville. Luckily for the Bills, it is not my job, but Rick Dennison’s to find a weakness in that defense and create a gameplan to exploit it. Just by looking at stats, it looks like run defense may be the weakness that the Bills should attack. The problem with that? LeSean McCoy’s injury. Even if McCoy does play, he will not be 100% and his injury will limit what he can do, which would hinder the Bills’ plan to attack the Jags on the ground.
So, who are the Jacksonville Jaguars? They are a team that plays tremendous defense, has a defensive line gets to the quarterback, and a teams that capitalizes on turnovers. They also have a quarterback who is doing exactly what they are asking him to do: make smart choices with the football and get the ball to the playmakers on offense. Like I said earlier, they have the same approach that the Bills have taken over the past few years. However, I believe that they play that style a lot better than the Bills did this year. What will that mean for Sunday? Well, let’s hope the Bills can beat the Jags at their own game. It will be tough, but I’ll take the Bills playing against this style of play over the team and the legend in Foxboro that is waiting for them in the second round if they happen to get out of Wild Card weekend with a win.