Jaguars Playoff Chances: What Trevor Lawrence Injury Means for Jacksonville in the AFC

Trevor Lawrence suffered an ankle injury on Monday night, but that wasn't the only thing that went wrong for the Jaguars in Week 13.

The Jacksonville Jaguars‘ Super Bowl hopes likely flashed before their eyes when franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence went down with an ankle injury and had to be assisted off the field during the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game.

Fortunately, Lawrence is only believed to be dealing with a sprained ankle, which could theoretically force him to miss time but isn’t a season-ending issue. How will the Jaguars proceed if Lawrence misses a game (or several), and how did Jacksonville’s playoff chances change thanks to their Week 13 loss?

How Will the Jacksonville Jaguars Replace Trevor Lawrence (If Necessary)?

Lawrence’s Tuesday MRI will determine the full extent of his injury. A low ankle sprain shouldn’t cost him much time, but a high ankle sprain could knock him out for several weeks.

Because they played on MNF, the Jaguars face a short turnaround before their Week 14 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. If Lawrence can’t suit up for that game, C.J. Beathard will make the first start of his Jacksonville career.

Beathard was outstanding against the Bengals, completing 9-of-10 for 63 yards. A 12-game starter for the San Francisco 49ers from 2017-20, Beathard led the Jaguars on a nine-play, 53-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter, allowing Brandon McManus to hit a game-tying 40-yard field goal.

The Jaguars don’t have another quarterback on their active roster, but signal-caller Nathan Rourke is on their practice squad. Rourke, who thrived in the Canadian Football League and during the 2023 NFL preseason, was Jacksonville’s emergence third QB when Lawrence was banged up in Week 7.

What Else Went Wrong for the Jaguars on Monday Night?

Lawrence’s injury is (correctly) at the top of most Jaguars fans’ minds, but his sprained ankle wasn’t Jackonville’s only issue against the Bengals.

For starters, the Jaguars’ defense allowed Cincinnati quarterback Jake Browning — a 27-year-old former undrafted free agent who made his first NFL start against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week — to carve them up.

Browning only missed on five of his 37 passes while averaging 9.6 yards per attempt. He posted 354 yards and a touchdown through the air, adding another score on a quarterback sneak.

MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor

Plus, wide receiver Christian Kirk and left tackle Walker Little joined Lawrence as injury victims on Monday night.

Kirk (groin) was listed as questionable to return, but — like Lawrence — never did. Little (hamstring) was already filling in for the injured Cam Robinson on Lawrence’s blindside, so the Jags had to insert third-string LT Blake Hance against the Bengals.

How Did Jacksonville’s Playoff Seeding Change in Week 13?

If the Lawrence-less Jaguars (8-4) had pulled off an overtime win on Monday night, they would have been the AFC’s No. 1 seed heading into Week 14. Instead, they’ll remain in the No. 4 slot behind the Miami Dolphins (9-3), Baltimore Ravens (9-3), and Kansas City Chiefs (8-4).

Losing to the Bengals significantly hinders Jacksonville’s chances of earning that top seed and receiving a first-round playoff bye. Although they entered Week 13 with a one-in-four chance of claiming the No. 1 seed, the Jags now have just an 8% chance to end up atop the conference at season’s end, per ESPN’s FPI.

MORE: Jacksonville Jaguars Depth Chart

The Houston Texans moved to 7-5 with a Week 13 win over the Denver Broncos and are now just a game behind the Jaguars in the AFC South. Jacksonville is still the overwhelming favorite to win the division, but its MNF loss decreased its AFC South odds from roughly 89% to 78%.

While the Jags may have a more difficult postseason path as a result of their loss to the Bengals, they have to be breathing a sigh of relief that Lawrence appeared to escape without serious injury.

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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