What a difference a victory makes, especially in the NFL, where a victory in Week 1 has the ability to turn a projected also-ran into a projected division champion.
That at least is what happened in the AFC South, where according to ESPN’s ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Jaguars 29-7 victory over the Texans last Sunday has completely changed their fortunes for this season.
Prior to winning that opener in Houston, the long-struggling Jaguars were given a meager 10.9-percent chance of winning the AFC South and a mere 2.4-percent chance of reaching the playoffs according to ESPN’s FPI.
Now the Jaguars are being given a 54.9-percent chance of unseating the Texans as two-time division champs and 63.4-percent chance of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
And that’s not all. After initially projecting the Jaguars to finish the year with a 7-9 record, ESPN’s FPI now has them tripling their win total from a year ago and finishing 9-7.
Of course, this could all change yet again just as quickly as it did this past week if the Jaguars don’t take care of business in their home opener Sunday against the Titans.
The Titans will go into that game with a 36.1-percent chance of winning the division and a 44.3-percent chance of winning the playoffs based in great part on the fact they lost right along with the Texans last week.
A victory over the Jaguars then will surely boost their chances of finishing with a record better than the 8-8 mark they’re projected to finish with now and would surely knock the Jaguars down a peg or two.
You would think, though, that the Titans would have to play a lot better offensively to do that. After all, they scored just 16 points while at home against the Raiders last week.
That may be a sign the Raiders defense has improved dramatically since the end of last year but it’s hard to imagine the Raiders playing at the level the Jaguars now seem capable of playing at.
Granted it was only the Texans, but the Jaguars were nothing short of dominant in their opener, recording 10 sacks and four takeaways while limiting the Texans to just 203 total yards.
If they can keep playing at a level close to that the ESPN FPI could prove to be very accurate indeed and the Jaguars may prove themselves to be the surprise team of 2017.