Ryan Day of our sister site, Big Cat Country, is on Cloud Nine these days. His Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South, the Colts are terrible, and he hasn’t had to write a single “Who should Jacksonville draft in the top five?” post all season long. Simply put, bloggers live for seasons like this one. So when he stopped by this week to answer all of my burning questions about the Jaguars, naturally the first topic had to be about Jaguars fans themselves.
1. So it looks like the Jags are not only going to win the AFC South for the first time ever, but also put up a double-digit win season for the first time since 2007. How are you feeling right now?
Um, great? In all honesty, I'm shell shocked by this season. I expected a 6-7 win season. If we went 8-8 I'd be ecstatic. The fact we have a historically good defense and a quarterback hitting on all cylinders the last few weeks is... indescribable. I've said it before and I'll say it again: This year's Jacksonville Jaguars make zero sense. But I'm so happy I was wrong. So happy. We're going to the playoffs and as long as Blake Bortles is playing at the level he has been, we're a Super Bowl contender. I couldn't be more excited.
2. The AFC is much weaker as a whole than the NFC this year. Considering you already smacked the Steelers and the Chargers earlier this season, the Patriots seem to be your biggest remaining test by far. That being said, would you rather go to Pittsburgh in January, or Foxborough?
I'd rather go to Foxborough, which is a strange thing to say, but I think we match up better with them. Their run game leaves a bit to be desired and Le'Veon Bell is one of the best running backs in football. Plus the Steelers defense is probably a little better at this point. Bill Belichick in the playoffs though... now I may be rethinking my answer. I'll stick with my gut. I'd rather go to Foxborough than Pittsburgh.
3. Who is the most important player on the Jaguars right now?
Blake Bortles. We’ve seen what happens when the defense puts together an incredible performance but the quarterback falls short — the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams, and Arizona Cardinals all took advantage of a subpar day under center. And we’ve seen what happens when the defense gives up big plays but the quarterback is able to keep up with efficient passing and big plays when we need it. We win.
Just look at all the big plays this defense gave up last week when Russell Wilson was able to maneuver outside of the pocket and the coverages broke down. But Blake stepped up, put the offense on his shoulders, and did what good quarterbacks do — he elevated the rest of the offense around him and won us the game.
The passing game is being led by Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, and Keelan Cole — Blake only found five different receivers last week and one of them was Larry Pinkard. But he made it work, securing 12 of our 20 first downs through the air on Sunday. Blake has flipped a switch as of late and his last two games have been two of the best of his career — and last week’s against the Seahawks I’d call his best ever. With him playing good (not average, legitimately good) football, this team is a Super Bowl contender. Without him, they’re one-and-done in the playoffs.
4. Has Blake Bortles redeemed himself in the eyes of Jags fans, or should they still look for his replacement this offseason?
It all depends on how he plays in the playoffs. If he plays like he did last week against the Seattle Seahawks, we're re-signing him as soon as we can to an extension. If he implodes, we'll be looking to move up in the draft for (hopefully!) Baker Mayfield.
5. Are you looking forward to next season's games between a healthy Texans team and a healthy Jags team as much as I am? Dare I say....in primetime?
You absolutely know it. I was a huge Deshaun Watson fan leading up to the draft and blasted the Jaguars for not taking him when they could -- and now he's in our division for the next 10 years. Your defense is good (when at full health) and DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jalen Ramsey will be fun to watch for the next decade. I'm excited about both our futures.
A big thank you to Ryan for taking time out of his week to talk Jaguars with us. You can read all of his and others’ excellent work over at Big Cat Country.