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.
Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?
One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.
Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) February 26, 2020
This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.
Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″
It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:
Doug Marrone: ‘’No doubt where I stand or the coaches.”
—They want Yannick Ngakoue back. pic.twitter.com/vOorH4hH95
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 26, 2020
However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially, put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?
Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.
If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.
Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus
At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.
Caldwell confirmed the Jaguars are not picking up DT Marcell Dareus' option.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 25, 2020
Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.
Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.
However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.
Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.
However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.
Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.
As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?