We’ve long since abandoned our hope for the beautiful NFL this year. Outside of a select few offenses serving up Grand Velas tacos, it’s mostly fast food for miles out there. The kind of stuff that sounds good when screamed at you through a television screen and leaves you in debilitating abdominal pain the next morning.
This isn’t to discount Cheetos-dusted tortilla gumbo quesadillas. It’s a culinary adventure, and in the absence of something that deserves to be served to distant kings and princes, we would rather wash down this sodium bomb with a cold Mountain Dew and enjoy what blessed days we have left on this Earth.
That’s a long way of saying we want more of what the Jaguars are giving us. We want more Pepsi-marinated steak and cheese balls. We want a team that trailed by three with 1:30 to go, fumbled the ball deep in its own territory, somehow got it back before time expired, fired a scrambling prayer to Zay Jones to set up a game-tying field goal then scooped an absurd pick-six for a game-winning overtime touchdown. We want a team that, in any given week, is going to make our night when we least expect it.
As we look at the current playoff picture, Jacksonville (6–8) co-headlines a class of roughly-.500 teams that will almost certainly be knocked out of the postseason in the first round if they make it, or obliterate a No. 1 seed and whirl their way into a drunken conference title game run. Along with the Lions, who evened their season record at .500 with a critical win over the Jets Sunday, the Jaguars are slowly making an improbable playoff run seem possible. They are not just two games out of a wild card, but a mere one game back of the 7–7 Titans, who have lost four straight, for control of the AFC South. They are giving us something to root for amid a season where most of last year’s functionally perfect offenses bottomed out due to injury, age, inexperience together or some combination of the three.
Beyond the Eagles, Chiefs, 49ers and Bills, shouldn’t we get one more team that offers an experience that really forces us to contemplate our life choices?
If the Super Bowl isn’t some combination of Josh Allen/Patrick Mahomes/Joe Burrow versus Dak Prescott/Jalen Hurts/Tom Brady, if we can’t order off the big-kids menu where the average dish is more than $100 a plate, why don’t we embrace our Guy Fieri and deep fry the whole season? Why don’t we root for the Jaguars?
What a weekend this was for chaos in general. Chaos in sports can be good. It can be a problematic 33-point Vikings deficit turned Jeff Saturday barbecue and Frank Reich poetic justice redemption tour. Hell, it can be a 2–0 Argentina lead after 36 minutes turned 3–3 white-knuckler (someone put soccer on my football channels this morning). It doesn’t have to be the symphony football film lovers on Twitter make us expect like a bunch of Tarantino snobs.
In Jacksonville, we have one of the best ascending quarterback talents in recent NFL history. Trevor Lawrence is a kind of unhinged Justin Herbert with a more imaginative offensive coordinator. He has a running back in Travis Etienne who, while somewhat disappointing to this point, looks as though he could traverse the length of the field in 3.8 seconds on any given play. We have a handful of young defensive players who can’t pool a decent PFF grade among them but are all athletic enough to randomly palm an errant pass and return the thing for a touchdown.
The Jaguars’ 2022 season has been an acid trip. They lost to the Commanders in Week 1, shut out the Colts in Week 2, clubbed the Chargers in Week 3 and proceeded to lose every single game they played in the month of October, including losses to the Broncos and the Texans.
Their recent run, which includes wins over the Ravens, Titans and Cowboys (and a loss to the Lions in which they gave up 40 points), shows some obvious maturity. Lawrence has thrown seven touchdowns and one interception over the last two weeks. He’s only thrown one pick since Halloween.
In a few years it will be boring to root for this team. It will be expected of us because they are on track to do everything right and build an offense around a quarterback with a broad enough back to shoulder an entire franchise. But now, the Jaguars are the crown jewel of the late night menu. It’s getting late. Everyone is hungry and, frankly, the four-star place seems a little trite at the moment.