On the eve of training camps getting underway, there are always plenty of predictions on teams and their records for the upcoming season. We found the one released Monday from USA Today to be quite interesting.
The three Florida teams: Tampa Bay, Miami, and Jacksonville all find themselves in three different scenarios.
Starting at the top, the projections have the Bucs leading the pack of Florida team’s. Finishing at 10-6 with a 2nd place in the NFC South, they also find themselves in a wildcard slot along with the New York Giants, who they take on in week four. The Bucs will look to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. After putting together a diverse offense and the potential for a stout defense, the sky can be the limit for the young Bucs.
Following the Bucs in what could be said as one of the shocks, are the Jags. The projections have Jacksonville finishing 8-8 tied with the Houston Texans for 2nd place in the AFC South. For this to happen you would have to assume Blake Bortles has a bounce back season for the offense. We also previously wrote that the defense looks to be dominant for years to come. As long as the offense can put up points and control clock, the Jags will soon be competing for the AFC South crown.
Surprisingly last, but certainly not least, are the Miami Dolphins. The lone playoff team from the State last season will not be returning to postseason play according to these projections, but that’s not all. The Phins also will be the lone team in the state to have a losing record finishing 7-9 and second in the AFC East. Part of that projection is due to 2 predicted losses to the undefeated Patriots. Even though, it seems like the Dolphins improved this off-season it just wasn’t enough to the people at USA Today.
Projections are projections, and are meant to try to pick the season’s outcome and create a talking point. USA Today has done that in with the three Florida based teams by giving us plenty to debate. Are the Bucs ready to make the leap? Can the Jags show major improvements? Can the Dolphins replicate last season’s success?
All of our questions will soon be answered, as the season prepares to start.
Steelers add to Jaguars frustrations with late comeback
Any hope that the Jaguars were going to turn their season around on a November Sunday in North Florida ended abruptly, as Ben Roethlisberger fueled a 16-point second-half comeback and the Steelers handed Jacksonville their sixth straight defeat.
The Jaguars controlled most of the first three quarters, but unfortunately had only three Josh Lambo field goals to show for their excellent play in the first half. And, their 9 – 0 lead going into the 3rd quarter came back to haunt them later on.
Outspoken but talented defensive back Jalen Ramsey stepped up big with two interceptions of Roethlisberger, while being matched up head-to-head on Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh. This came on the heels of a Sunday morning ESPN report that the Jaguars would likely try to trade the third year cornerback this off season to rid themselves of his antics off the field.
The Jags denied the report in a statement, and Ramsey looked up to the challenge early
However, Brown did shake loose for a 78-yard bomb in the third quarter with that Pittsburgh back in the game at 16 – 6. It was the beginning of the end for Jacksonville.
And, unfortunately for the Jaguars, an all too familiar theme took shape, again, in the second half. This, as Blake Bortles was once again virtually ineffective throwing for just a 104 yards and was sacked six times on the game.
Then, when Roethlisberger led the Steelers to another touchdown with under six minutes remaining hitting TE Vance McDonald on an 11-yard score, it wast 16-13.
Once more, Jacksonville’s offense could do nothing and gave the ball back to Pittsburgh for one more opportunity for Roethlisberger to play the hero. He hit Juju Smith Schuster-with a long completion inside the Jacksonville 25 yard line, and then, another pass over the middle Bryant put them down inside the 4-yard line with under :20 to play.
Two plays later Roethlisberger scrambled just into the end zone with only :05 remaining in the game and the comeback was complete.
In stunning the Jaguars and their home fans, Pittsburgh won its six consecutive game. Further, they dealt a likely fatal blow to Jacksonville’s hopes to get into the playoff race, as they now stand at 3-7.
Despite Leonard Fournette having a strong day with almost a hundred yards rushing and the lone touchdown on an “Up and Over” dive in the third quarter, the Jags once again showed that their biggest flaw is: that can’t throw the football with any down-filled success and get quick scores with any regularity.
And unlike 2017 when they’re plodding, run-based offense was effective, time and again, it’s been exposed in 2018 for losses.
With the win the Steelers do get a measure of revenge after being swept last year by Jacksonville including a while 45 – 35 playoff loss in the divisional round at Heinz Field.
Report- Jaguars will explore trading DB Jalen Ramsey
The soap opera involving controversial and outspoken Jags defensive back Jalen Ramsey took another turn Sunday morning. That’s when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Jags are going to seriously consider trading Ramsey at the end of this season.
Schefter made the comments on ESPN’s Sunday morning “NFL Countdown” pregame show and also wrote about it on ESPN.com, citing League sources:
Jaguars likely to consider trading CB Jalen Ramsey in offseason, per league sources.https://t.co/WzlgVgVRiO
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 18, 2018
As we wrote earlier this week, Ramsey made waves when he tweeted Monday after the Jags fifth consecutive loss that Jaguar fans were going to “miss me when I’m gone.”
Ramsey tried to downplay the controversy, when he met with the media on Thursday, and said that he was only talking to “fake Jaguar fans.” And further, he said that he wants to finish his career in Jacksonville.
We’ve documented the off-season of headaches that included: Ramsey not showing up to OTAs, delaying arriving to training camp by 5 days after the birth of his daughter, and being outspoken in an article on GQ.com criticizing multiple quarterbacks including the Jaguars opponent today, the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger.
And he and former teammate Dante Fowler were both suspended for a week during the preseason for their behavior at a Jags training camp practice, where Fowler was trying to get into a fight with teammate Yannick Ngakoue.
Earlier this week, Coach Doug Marrone took an unusual step for him and actually specifically mentioned Ramsey by name, as having blown a key coverage in the first half on a Colts touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron.
Later Sunday morning, the Jaguars released a statement denying the trade rumor:
Statement regarding CB Jalen Ramsey. pic.twitter.com/e7qquci86b
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) November 18, 2018
Ramsey was a top-10 pick of the Jaguars in 2016 and is in the third year of his four-year rookie deal. So that makes the rumors about a possible trade after the season even juicier, because he’s much more affordable for another team to acquire right now.
The Jaguars will take on the Steelers later today at TIAA Bank field.
Gameday- Jaguars rematch Steelers looking stop losing streak
Who: Jaguars (3-6) vs. Steelers (6-2-1)
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville
Spread: Steelers by 5 1/2 points (Courtesy of VegasInsider.com)
Here’s what to watch:
Build on last week’s offensive success
The Jaguars came to life on the offensive side of the ball in Indianapolis. Even though it was a 29 – 26 loss, Leonard Fournette was back for the first time in five weeks, ran tough and ended up with two touchdowns. As we have well-documented, he also help set up the play-action pass that has been sorely missed on a consistent basis for Jacksonville.
Blake Bortles (shown above in January’s playoff win) was able to hit Donte Moncrief with an 80-yard touchdown and the Jags had their best offensive output, since game four of the season.
More than likely, the Steelers will put some points on the board, and Jacksonville has to be ready to keep up with them.
Slow down Big Ben
In their two wins last season at Pittsburgh, the Jaguars defense was more than opportunistic against Ben Roethlisberger. They had five interceptions in the regular season win and then, two more takeaways in the AFC divisional playoff win were all critical.
The Jags come in with only eight takeaways in nine games, so far. And, it’s one of the big reasons they are on a five game skid.
If Jacksonville gives Roethlisberger time to throw without sacking and knocking him down or at least pressuring him into early errant bad decisions, it’s going to be a long day.
Get the Swagger back.
Somewhere along the way, the Jaguars have lost part of what made them good in 2017. They played as a confident, almost cocky, football team, especially on defense.
They have been humbled in one decisive loss after another, recently and that swagger is not there.
Playing at home Sunday, can Jacksonville revive some of that attitude in front of the home fans by making some big plays early? There will be a large contingent of Steelers fans on hand, as they always travel well.
Let’s see if it makes a difference being back at home for the first time in almost a month.
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