The Jacksonville Jaguars won the AFC South thanks to a furious five-game winning streak to end the 2022 season. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence blossoming into a star before our eyes as the year progressed, the Jaguars are aiming higher for the 2023 season.
With that in mind, we dive into what the best and worst-case scenarios are for the Jaguars in 2023.
Predicting the Best-Case Scenario for the Jaguars’ 2023 NFL Season
Considering the Jaguars ended the 2022 season on an electric note that included an amazing 27-point comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card Round, it’s safe to say there’s a major buzz around the team.
Despite 2022 being head coach Doug Pederson’s first season with the franchise and Lawrence’s second year in the league, the Jaguars were an impressive bunch. They finished 10th in points scored and 12th in points allowed.
There were numerous areas where the Jaguars could stand to improve. Lawrence hit his stride in the back half of the 2022 season, and a full year of high-end play will further transform the offense. 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker provided only 3.5 sacks in 14 starts.
Jacksonville’s win total at DraftKings Sportsbook is 9.5, and they’re -195 to make the playoffs. It should help that the Jaguars have the 10th-easiest schedule in the league, but it is the toughest schedule amongst AFC South teams.
Pederson acknowledged that expectations are higher now, but the internal focus remains on winning. Lawrence has handled the team’s sudden growth in a similarly composed way, noting, “It’s a continual growth process” for himself and the team. But the Jaguars’ best-case scenario is to be very good and push for another deep playoff appearance.
For as well as the offense played in 2022, star running back Travis Etienne is now a full year removed from a Lisfranc injury that caused him to miss the 2021 season. Calvin Ridley has been added to a receiving corps that desperately lacked a true No. 1 star. Lawrence and tight end Evan Engram have an established chemistry that will pay off right away.
More is settled on the defensive side as well. Darious Williams is cemented in as the No. 2 boundary cornerback instead of the slot. Second-year linebacker Devin Lloyd is entering the year healthier and more confident, and Walker said last year was a “growing year.”
Growth is rarely linear, but the Jaguars are young enough and on an upward trajectory of improvement. At best, this team can go toe to toe with any team in the NFL and have a shot at making it to the Super Bowl.
The biggest concern is whether they have enough pass-rush help to get after Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, and Josh Allen when it matters the most.
Predicting the Worst-Case Scenario for the Jaguars’ 2023 NFL Season
The concern with any young team is the lack of depth. The Jaguars are still in the early stages of their competitive window, meaning that any major injury to a key position can lead to a significant drop in performance. There’s very little depth along the offensive line, wide receiver unit, pass rush, and secondary.
Pederson has wisely been “careful” easing Ridley back onto the field in OTAs after the WR missed the entire 2022 season. He knows the significance of suffering a soft-tissue injury that can linger throughout the year. Though the top three of Ridley, Christian Kirk, and Zay Jones is very good, the team has zero proven depth behind them.
The worst-case scenario for the offense would include each of their vulnerabilities being exposed.
If Ridley isn’t at least solid in his return, the receiving corps will be subpar. Left tackle Cam Robinson will be suspended for multiple games, opening the door for Walker Little to step in. But if Little or first-round right tackle Anton Harrison is bad, the whole offense will suffer.
Walker has to become a better pass rusher. Josh Allen slipped a bit in 2022, and now in a contract season, he could also stand to elevate his game. If Walker and Allen again total only 10.5 sacks, the Jaguars’ defense will only be good enough to reach the playoffs but won’t be Super Bowl-caliber.
It’s possible the Jaguars don’t win the AFC South, but there’d have to be an excellent, unforeseen season from the Titans, Texans, or Colts, in addition to the Jaguars having several setbacks that simply shouldn’t happen.