JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Things couldn’t possibly get much worse for the Jaguars, could they? After getting off to a 3-1 start, Jacksonville (3-5) has lost four games in a row. Once viewed as a Super Bowl contender, the team will now be lucky to pick up enough wins to finish 8-8 on the season.
Of course, it’s tough to pin the team’s recent struggles completely on the Jaguars. After all, they’ve been stung by injuries to key players, including running back Leonard Fournette, who hasn’t played a snap since re-aggravating a hamstring injury in the team’s Week 4 win over the New York Jets.
The team now sits at 0-2 in the AFC South after losing home games to the division rival Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans in Weeks 3 and 7, respectively. At this point, it’s hard to imagine how Jacksonville could pull off wins against both opponents on the road in the second half of the season.
Given how bleak the rest of the season looks, it’s no surprise that national pundits are downgrading their outlook on the Jaguars season. As a result, the team has fallen out of the Top 20 on most NFL Power Rankings lists heading into Week 9. Take a look:
ESPN rank: 18 (down from 15). Why?
It's hard to pick just one scary trend because the season is turning into a disaster, but the Jaguars' inability to run the ball (95 yards per game, after leading the NFL in 2017) handcuffs the offense. Injuries to running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring), every spot on the offensive line (they're on their third-string left tackle) and at tight end are the top reasons. Quarterback Blake Bortles isn't good enough to carry the offense consistently without that, and his penchant for turning the ball over makes it even worse.
USA Today rank: 22 (up from 24). Why?
Treat — star RB Leonard Fournette may be back following Week 9 bye, perhaps firing up a team that's little more than a dumpster fire now.
Sporting News rank: 23 (down from 21). Why?
See, when Blake Bortles plays well and protects the ball, they can still lose. The receivers let him down against the Eagles, and the power running game was still non-existent with Carlos Hyde. Leonard Fournette's return will need to provide a monumental spark to save their season.
The Jaguars have their bye this week, so they’ll have a chance to regroup. Plus, with Fournette expected to return in Week 10 against Indianapolis, there’s at least one reason to be (cautiously) optimistic. And, let’s face it, things can only get better from here. Right?