There is a renewed sense of hope this season in Jacksonville. After enduring one of the most embarrassing, dysfunctional seasons under former head coach Urban Meyer, the franchise that finished last in the AFC South for four straight years has reason to be optimistic. Nevertheless, Jaguars fans are warranted in being suspicious of an organization that has continually failed to deliver on its promise to take the Jaguars into a new era of winning football. The 2021 season, when they finished 1-15, was supposed to be rock bottom. Instead, despite drafting QB Trevor Lawrence, last season set the organization further back, even though they won an additional two games.
Now, it's on former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson to build a culture of winning and maximize the potential of his young quarterback. The long-term sustainability of success in Jacksonville will require better-decision making from the front office. However, I think the Jaguars hired the right man in Pederson to get some short-term improvements this season. The Jaguars' win total is at 6.5 currently at BetMGM. Six or seven wins is still a losing season, but it's a pretty big jump for a team that won 4 of 33 games the last two years.
Lawrence can thrive under Doug Pederson in 2022
Pederson brings a lot of positives that will put Lawrence in a much better position than he was during his rookie season. His offensive philosophy benefits a young quarterback. During his time in Philadelphia, Pederson stressed protection, used 12 personnel packages and was an aggressive play-caller in high-leverage situations. Per Larry Holder of the Athletic, Jacksonville was decent (18th) in rushing success rate on early downs. Now with adding an explosive element in Travis Etienne to their backfield, the Jags are poised to improve even more. Limiting unmanageable third downs is key for any young quarterback, and a dependable ground game will allow Pederson to set Lawrence up for success much more than in his rookie year.
That's part of what Pederson brings, the ability to draw from his experience playing the position to help him understand the needs of a young quarterback. Pederson had Carson Wentz on track to win league MVP in his second season before Wentz succumbed to injury. It didn't end well in Philadelphia, but the Super Bowl-winning coach won many games with two quarterbacks (Wentz and Nick Foles) who have been unable to duplicate their success without him. So I think it's fair to expect a leap from Lawrence in Year 2.
Support from an improved coaching staff and a viable rushing attack can make all the difference. However, there are more positive signals for Lawrence entering his second year. First, the Jaguars quarterback benefits from a much more favorable schedule. Per Clevanalytics, Lawrence will face the easiest schedule of pass defenses, including seven of the bottom 10 ranked by Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. Second, Jacksonville spent big money in free agency to ensure Lawrence has the wideouts to attack those suspect secondaries. There is a real possibility that Christian Kirk's massive contract might be a cap nightmare in the future. But, anything after this upcoming season is irrelevant when evaluating win totals.
Jacksonville Jaguars 6.5 wins: Over (+110), Under (-130)
The Jaguars won four games total the last two seasons and are getting a 3.5-game bump from last year's three-win season. So there is strong support that Pederson will get this team out of the gutter. Pederson is a culture builder, and with a talented young quarterback in Lawrence, the Jags are finally headed in the right direction. They will have some challenges on defense, but the offense should see significant growth with Lawrence's development.
It helps that they play in a division that is ripe for a rebuilding team to gain some traction. The Texans are my lowest-rated roster in the NFL. The Titans lost a ton of critical offensive linemen, and the Colts are still playing quarterback carousel. I wouldn't say Jacksonville is live to win the AFC South (+450), but I don't think second place in the division is out of the question.
A favorable schedule makes a 7-10 season a strong enough possibility for me to bet over 6.5 wins at +110. Barring injury, they are also a solid play for Week 1 in Washington at anything over +3. In 2022, the Jacksonville fans get the season they expected one year later
Stats provided by footballoutsiders, clevanalytics, teamrankings.