Mark Brunell: For Jaguars, it's a new season: Playoff season


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Happy New Year Jag fans. And happy it already is.  

Monday marks a new year and hopefully a great 2018 for everybody reading this. It also marks a new season for the Jaguars: playoff season. All that has taken place since training camp in August is over. The 10 wins are done as are the six losses. So much to be proud of and so much to be excited about.  But this Sunday is the beginning of what we all hope is a special playoff run.  So as I drink the first of what will be about 1,000 cups of coffee in 2018, here are some thoughts on our playoff-bound Jaguars.  

Yes, the Jaguars are “limping” into the playoffs. Losing the last two games of the season is not good. I believe in momentum. I believe it's important, but we don’t have a lot of it right now.  Maybe some on defense, but none on offense.  However, momentum is something you want but not necessarily something you have to have.

I was a member of the 2009 New Orleans Saints.  We won our first 13 games and lost our last three.  Absolutely no momentum going into the playoffs at all, yet we won the Super Bowl.

I’m thrilled we are playing the Bills. It unquestionably is a better matchup for us. The Bills are 30th in the NFL in sacks allowed.  hey are 29th in total offense. They rank 30th in stopping the run.  All of this fits well with our football team.  

Our strength is rushing the passer, our defense and our ability to run the football. Also, the Bills finish the regular season at 9-7 without really beating any real good football teams. They beat the Falcons and the Chiefs, both playoff teams. But certainly not on the same level of beating the Steelers or the Seahawks. If the Bills had somehow beat the Patriots in the regular season, I would be impressed, but they did not.    

All that being said, if the Jaguars should take this team lightly, this dream season could easily be over at 4 p.m. Sunday. This is playoff football and everything is different. Throw out the records and forget about who you beat and how you got where you’re at.

I can guarantee you that Coach Doug Marrone will be building up the Bills to his football team. I can guarantee you that the head coach is doing his best to not let his team look past the Bills.

While it's a good matchup for us and we absolutely should win, this team can beat us. Upsets happen. Sometimes you go into a hostile environment with everything against you and beat the far better football team. Remember the Bronco game?

There are some concerns I have about our football team, but they are only concerns.  On defense, I’m concerned about the big play.  The last few weeks we’ve been susceptible to big plays. Yes, we are playing very well, but the big plays have hurt us.  

On offense, we are not running the ball very well. We finished the season as the best rushing team in the NFL but it's been a struggle lately.  I’m also concerned about our young receivers. Last Sunday, our young receivers dropped a touchdown, fumbled and did whatever that was on the punt return.  Young players many times can’t handle the big games. This is a big game coming up.  Hopefully we get Marqise Lee back. He will make a difference.

OK, those are the concerns. Here is the worry. I’m worried about our football team having to come from behind. We’re not good at that. We really haven’t done it. We certainly haven’t done it in the last couple weeks.

In the playoffs you face good teams. Duh!  And when you face those teams, sometimes you face a little adversity. You get behind. You need to score. You have to make a game winning drive at the end. Its the very thing that defines your team, specifically your quarterback.

The ability to orchestrate a fourth-quarter comeback in the playoffs turns a good quarterback into a great one. Blake Bortles will get that opportunity in these playoffs. And while he hasn’t been very good in late pressure situations this year, he will have another opportunity in the next few weeks.

I believe he can do it!  Remember, it is a new season. Go Jaguars!