The Jacksonville Jaguars got destroyed by the New England Patriots in the first preseason game, 47-12. We can’t make too much of a preseason opener, as plenty of players didn’t play. Of course, one of those players was Tom Brady. The Jaguars had a decent first drive to get inside the 20 and score a field goal and then immediately got a fumble, which was squandered when Mike Thomas dropped a pass on third down. They were up 6-0 early, so that score line was a bit deceiving, but then again, the manner in which Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett carved up the Jaguars for the rest of the game may be a statement about the depth, or lack thereof, on the Jaguars roster heading into the season.
The bigger concern for this year, though, is that the Jaguars were a paper version of a member of the big cat family in 2010. They went 1-5 against teams with a winning record last year, and allowed over 30 points a game in those contests. Jacksonville won several close games (5-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less), including some in improbable fashion. They had a chance t0 make the playoffs at 8-6 before dropping the last two, but were fortunate to be in such a position.
In evaluating their chances this year, we need to consider that point differential along with their record. As it turns out (using the pro football reference team game finder), Jacksonville’s -66 point difference in 2010 is tied for the 7th worst point differential for a team finishing 8-8. Here is a summary of the 23 teams that went 8-8 with a point differential of -30 or worse since 1978, and what they did the following season, sorted by win total the next year:
Year Team Diff Wins Diff, N+1 2006 GB -65 13 144 1989 MIA -48 12 94 1980 MIA -39 11 70 2006 TEN -76 10 4 1981 GB -37 10 101 1992 DEN -67 9 89 2008 DEN -78 8 2 2003 CIN -38 8 2 1998 OAK -68 8 61 2006 CAR -35 7 -80 2001 WAS -47 7 -58 2004 STL -73 6 -66 2009 TEN -48 6 17 1996 SD -66 4 -159 1994 ARI -32 4 -147 2002 SD -34 4 -128 1979 NYJ -46 4 -93 2008 WAS -31 4 -70 1983 MIN -32 3 -208 2004 NO -57 3 -163 2000 BUF -35 3 -155 1983 BUF -68 2 -204 1999 SD -47 1 -171
*GB wins and pt diff prorated to 16 games for 1982 strike season
As a group, they averaged a -50 point differential, so a little better than Jacksonville last year. Six of these 8-8 teams (out of 23) with a bad point differential ended up making the playoffs the following season. Of course, half of those were quarterbacked by guys named Elway, Favre and Marino. Almost as many (5) won 3 or fewer games the next year as reached the playoffs, and nearly half (10 of 23) went 4-12 or worse the following year. The average win total the following season was 6.4, and the average point differential was -48.6.
I would personally be stunned if Jacksonville ended up as a 7th playoff team from that list. Jack Del Rio is entering year 9, and the team seems to be stagnating or going backwards, masked by that 8-8 record last year. I thought Blaine Gabbert looked better than his numbers (9 for 16 for 85 yards, 2 sacks), was hurt by the Thomas drop, and made strong throws when he wasn’t pressured. I suspect he’ll get an opportunity to play and struggle as a rookie, because I don’t look for Jacksonville to be in playoff contention. The next time it happens will probably be with a new coach after the team plays in line with their underlying numbers, sees the luck regress in 2011, goes through growing pains with a rookie quarterback, and finishes in the 4-5 win range.
[photo via Getty]