The Jacksonville Jaguars demonstrated quickly a team can change its fortunes, going from worst to first in the AFC South in one year.
A year on from the Urban Meyer debacle, going 3-14 and having the number one pick for the second draft running, the Jacksonville Jaguars won only their second division title in 23 years and made the divisional round of the playoffs in an excellent 2022/23 season.
Under Doug Pederson, the whole culture of the operation changed and long-suffering Jacksonville fans finally got to see what all the fuss was about with quarterback .
Having rapidly put down some strong foundations, the question now is can the Jaguars build on last season in a conference containing a large number of the NFL’s big hitters?
|What||2023/24 NFL Season|
|When||September 8th, 2023 - February 11th, 2024|
|Jaguars Odds||To Win Division -160, To Win Conference +1200, To Win SBLVIII +2500|
1st AFC South (9-8). Beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30 in the Wild Card round. Lost to the 27-20 in the Divisional Round.
Having made a massive leap last season, the Jaguars all of a sudden look the class outfit in an otherwise poor division.
With all their divisional rivals, the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, going through various stages of a rebuild, including integrating rookie quarterbacks, the AFC South appears to be Jacksonville’s to lose.
They are strong favorites to go back-to-back in the AFC South for the first time in franchise history and return to the playoffs.
Those goals look achievable for a young Jags team, despite the lack of free agency action by the Florida franchise as they concentrated on re-signing key players, rather than bring in fresh faces.
Lawrence took a massive step forward in his second year in the NFL, his passer rating jumping by an NFL record 23.3 points on an offense that ranked tenth overall in total offense and ninth in DVOA.
There’s still room for more improvement from Lawrence too, and the same goes for a young defensive unit that really hit its stride during the Jags' six-game winning streak at the end of the regular season.
The defense improved from 28th to 12th in points per game allowed last season and although they still struggled against the pass, the ingredients are there to keep getting better in 2023/24.
The Jaguars went from worst to (almost) first last season, as the franchise reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs after drafting first overall the year prior.
More is expected from Doug Pederson’s men in 2023/24.
Jacksonville is one of four teams (Chiefs, Eagles, 49ers) that are odds-on favorites to win their division at -160.
While they aren’t clear-cut Super Bowl contenders like the other three, the Jaguars are no strangers to surprise successes, notably their 27-point comeback win over the Chargers in last year’s Wild Card round, before pushing the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs to the brink in the Divisional.
Jacksonville is +2500 in the To Win Outright market and +1200 in the To Win Conference market, although the franchise is yet to reach the Super Bowl since being founded in 1995.
If you think the Jaguars are due to regress, you can get them at +165 to miss the playoffs.
The Jags' home opener in Week Two sees them face off against the reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City in a rematch of last season's divisional round of the playoffs.
Jacksonville put in a great showing against the Chiefs but just fell short of a major upset, extending their losing run against Kansas City to seven straight games.
A home clash with Houston follows the Chiefs' visit before Jacksonville become the first team to play back-to-back London games in a season in Weeks Four and Five.
Lawrence and co face off against the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley in Week Four before another early test of their playoff credentials against the Buffalo Bills at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a week later.
They have three prime time games this season, starting with a trip to New Orleans in Week Seven on Thursday Night Football, before a Monday meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals in 13.
They round off their series against AFC North sides with a visit from the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15, before ending the regular season with winnable games against the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Titans.
Doug Pederson has proven to be an inspired appointment, repairing the majority of the damage Meyer did and getting a lot out of a young roster in his first season in charge.
Having also masterminded one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history against the Chargers, Pederson’s efforts were recognised by being named AFC Coach of the Year for 2022, becoming only the second Jags boss in franchise history to scoop the gong.
Pederson returned to the league last year fully refreshed after a year's sabbatical and with a point to prove after being written off following a disappointing end to his Philadelphia tenure.
Pederson outsmarted great Bill Belichick to win the Eagles the Super Bowl in 2017 before playoff appearances in 2018 and 2019.
LT Josh Wells (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) R
B D'Ernest Johnson (Cleveland Browns)
LG Chandler Brewer (Los Angeles Rams)
CB Shaquill Griffin WR
Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions)
Edge Arden Key (Tennessee Titans)
WR Dan Arnold (Philadelphia Eagles)
RT Jawaan Taylor (Kansas City Chiefs)
Edge Dawuane Smoot
|Offensive MVP||Travis Etienne|
|Defensive MVP||Foyesade Oluokun|
|Top rookie||Anton Harrison (1st round)|
|Breakout star||Calvin Ridley|
Trevor Lawrence wasn’t the only second year player on the Jags offense to take a big step forward last year with running-back Travis Etienne developing into a dynamic playmaker one year on from a serious knee injury.
Etienne had 1,441 yards from scrimmage and five rushing touchdowns, while he also piled up 121 yards in the playoff win over the Chargers, and has a big role to play for the Jags moving forward.
Nominated as PFF's most improved Jaguar was linebacker Foyesade Oluokun, who was a massive hit for the Florida franchise following his switch from the Falcons.
He lead the team in tackles (184), solo tackles (128), and tackles for loss (12) and earned the nickname of "the Eraser" from defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell.
Hoping to erase the opponent’s pass rusher this year is first-round pick Anton Harrison, who is likely to be a day-one starter given the departure of Jawaan Taylor and the suspension of Cam Robinson.
Harrison is a top athlete and while he needs some technical refinement, he has an important role to play protecting Lawrence.
Perhaps the secret weapon for the Jaguars this season will be wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who is eligible to return this season after a lengthy suspension.
In his last full season with the Falcons in 2020/21, Ridley posted career-best figures for targets (137), receptions (90) and yards (1,374) and will be a big asset for the Jags if he can rediscover his previous form.
Odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.