Did I just say the Jacksonville Jaguars are decent playoff bets for the 2020s? Or better yet, am I implying the Jacksonville Jaguars are decent regular season over/under, division championship, and perhaps even AFC Championship-worthy bets in the 2020s?
Yes. But not in 2020 per se, as you may have probably figured out watching a few of their games. Sure, we all had the Jags hot on our radar after that major upset in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts. Since then, they’ve dropped three straight, including losses to Miami and Cincinnati.
It’s back to reality to all of you in Duval County. But don’t worry, because there’s a lot about this team to like. And if you’ve been following the Jags, here are five reasons they will be a hot bet at any of the best online sportsbooks in many sectors throughout the 2020s.
And we’re not talking about a hot bet to dwell in the AFC South’s cellar.
1. Swashbuckler in Command
Gardner Minshew may not bring his team to .500 in 2020 following a 1-3 start to the season. But as I write this, he has taken the leap among second-year players. Minshew, believe it or not, is posting better numbers than any second-year quarterback.
Let’s compare him to the others from his draft class. Drew Lock is missing games with a shoulder injury. Daniel Jones’ New York Giants are struggling to get anything going. Kyler Murray’s doing okay, but he’s nowhere near the expected level of NFL MVP many expected this season.
Minshew is playing at another level, as in Pro Bowl-worthy football.
He’s completed 72% of his passes as of Week Four in 2020, has thrown 8 touchdowns, and 4 picks. He’s also averaging 284.5 yards per game, per Pro-Football-Reference. Talk about improved numbers over the last season!
With that said, even if the Jags squander to a 4-12 finish (or worse) in 2019, Minshew is definitely doing enough to warrant himself as the franchise quarterback for this franchise.
Even if there is a coaching change and front office overhaul, the Jaguars organization would be crazy to change quarterbacks, even if Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is available. I wouldn’t even try it with Minshew putting up these kinds of numbers.
Put him on a football team that’s halfway decent and he’s following Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes to the NFL MVP Award. And it’s not even farfetched. What would he do in Minnesota? Cleveland?
Since he’s just 24, you can expect him to hang around until the 2030s, barring injury or a case of the yips.
2. Defensive Cornerstones
You can create an octagon of cornerstones considering the young Jags have on the defensive side of the ball. All championship-caliber teams start with great defense. And yes, I’m aware the defense has been iffy in 2020.
But hey, when you have a defense full of rookies and players in their first season, playing in the system with hardly any time to train, what do you expect? We expected this back in July. However, these defensive cornerstones are young and talented, even if they’re undergoing growing pains.
It starts with defensive end Josh Allen, and I’m sure we should all know what he’s capable of. Other up and comers like CJ Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson, and DaVon Hamilton are here to stay for the long haul, and each are rookies who you can expect to make the leap come 2021.
And you have talent at linebacker like Joe Schobert and Myles Jack. Both are still in their 20s and in the prime of their careers. Each is also just in their fifth seasons, so expect the tread on their tires to remain for years to come.
Again, you could probably build an octagon of defensive cornerstones in Jacksonville as we witness the rebuild going to work here in 2020. It ain’t pretty, and it ain’t going to be for a while.
However, not only is there a lot to like on the defensive side of the ball for the future, there’s enough to like on offense for the present.
Let’s talk about it.
3. The Offensive Arsenal
We already discussed quarterback Gardner Minshew in his own section, and there’s a lot more to love about Jacksonville’s offensive arsenal, especially in a Jay Gruden-led offense. The former head coach truly thrives when he has the correct players to fit the system. And it seems like they’re giving Gruden a lot of good over in Duval County.
First of all, undrafted rookie James Robinson has lit up the league unlike any undrafted running back in his rookie season. And if you’re a fantasy owner that was fortunate enough to scoop him up, more power to you.
But it’s the receiving unit that should impress you the most about this team. Laviska Shenault was an excellent find in the second round. A steal who would’ve been a first rounder if not for injuries.
You don’t get many dual-threat wide receivers, but Shenault is one of them, having the ability to run as well as he can catch.
Shenault is a poor man’s Odell Beckham. But don’t be surprised if he exceeds Beckham’s production as his career goes forward.
We also know what receiver DJ Chark is capable of. The Jags are a different offense with Chark on the field and he’s developing into one of the game’s best receivers.
Best yet, this team is deep at receiver with Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, and Dede Westbrook rounding out the lineup. Each is in their 20s and are proven depth players in the league.
If the Jaguars can fix the offensive line in the off-season, then they may become a solid over/under, AFC South Champion, and playoff bet as soon as 2021. And that’s even if the defense is still a year or two away from greatness.
4. Rebuilding AFC South
A few hours before I wrote this article, the Houston Texans fired head coach slash general manager Bill O’Brien. And after an 0-4 start, who saw that coming? And with the firing of O’Brien comes a potential rebuild in Houston; you just have to feel for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
I got one statement for you, Mr. Watson: Ask for a trade. And if that is the case, it’s another team down for the Jaguars to contend with in the AFC South. Heck, that may start as early as this season.
The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans will rule the South in 2020, and any rational bettor would have expected it. I liked the Titans because of the way the players have bought into head coach Mike Vrabel’s system.
Plus, I didn’t trust the arm of Philip Rivers, even if he’s been okay in Indy. But he’s 38, and Father Time ain’t easing up.
So there are two questions facing Rivers:
- How much longer is he a viable NFL quarterback?
- And when he gives it up, where do the Colts go from there?
Don’t get me wrong. The Colts have an outstanding defense, and good defense wins championships. But next to the stellar offensive line, their offense is threatening to become a barren wasteland in just a couple of seasons tops.
That leaves the Jaguars perhaps contending with the Titans for the next few seasons if the Colts can’t find a quarterback. And given the fact, the Jags will become Saxonville (or Sacksonville?) again sooner rather than later.
But even the Titans have shown vulnerability. Over the first three games of 2020, they’ve won each game by a margin of 6 points. That’s an average of 2 points per game. Sure, a win is a win. But how many ugly wins can a team accomplish before they collapse?
5. The Open AFC
I saw it coming before the season began: The AFC was going to be wide open, and an article from the NFL Network echoed my claims shortly after Week 4.
But the consensus among most fans is that the conference belonged to two heavyweights: the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens. But a slew of teams, young teams, have other ideas.
The Cleveland Browns are a young team that can step forward so long as they don’t lay another egg against Baltimore.
The LA Chargers will start winning again sooner than later with the unexpected outstanding play from rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.
The Buffalo Bills are all-in for the long haul. And then there are the Titans. But the Jags may be a straggler to the party in the 2020s along with a few other up-and-coming football teams.
So, as you keep your eye on the new breed outside of the Chiefs and Ravens, pay attention to those Jaguars.
They won’t be dwelling near the bottom of the division or the conference for long if they continue to build upon their franchise quarterback, defensive cornerstones, and their underrated yet powerful offensive arsenal.
So, yeah, betting the Jaguars to finish anything better than third place in the AFC South was definitely not in your best interests. However, they’re looking up toward the future and don’t be surprised if they’re winning AFC South Championships and making deep playoff runs as the decade wears on.
Minshew and his offensive arsenal will continue to get stronger, and the defense will turn the corner.
With a rebuilding AFC South plus an AFC that’s growing more open by the week, expect great things from the Jacksonville Jaguars and they will be hot wagers at the NFL betting sites throughout the decade.