The Jacksonville Jaguars will be returning to the playoffs this season, but not on the road as a wild card team. They will be hosting a game in sold out Jacksonville Municipal Stadium come playoff time. That is right, the Jags are going to be AFC South division champions.
This may be a lofty prediction—I can agree to that. The Jags still have Peyton Manning in their division, the Texans who always seem to be the sexy team each year, and the overachieving Titans led by Pro Bowl quarterback Vince Young (don't get me started on that).
However, if all of the pieces fall in place, the Jags can make a run to the top. The first piece is this year's draft class, especially the tenth overall pick, Tyson Alualu. I love the pick. He is going to fit nicely with Terrance Knighton in the middle, newly acquired defensive end Aaron Kampman, and fellow rookie defensive linemen D'Anthony Smith and Larry Hart. The defensive line can be a force to be reckoned with, but we will just have to wait and see.
The offense is only going to be better than it was last year. David Garrard is a good NFL quarterback. Not bad, not elite, but a good quality starter. His two tackles have a year under their belt, and showed significant strides at the end of last season. Eugene Monroe played extremely well against Dwight Freeney during that epic Thursday night game.
The wide receivers are a young crew. Mike Sims-Walker is easily the most talented in the group, and he could be one of the big surprises in the NFL. Last year was his first real year playing because of injuries, and this year could be his breakout season. Second-year guys Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Zach Miller can be solid pass catchers for Garrard to rely on. Marcedes Lewis made a few remarkable catches and will continue to be a big target down the middle.
Maurice Jones-Drew is the man in Jacksonville. It is hard to put all of the weight on one man's shoulders, but "Pocket Hercules" can handle it. In my opinion, he is the most complete back in the NFL. Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson may be more explosive and run for more yards, but I do not see them catching, blocking, pounding in the middle and holding onto the ball like Jones-Drew does. He is going to be the driving force for the Jaguars offense this year.
So this all brings me back to my overall prediction of the Jaguars winning the division this year. Of course many are going to call me crazy, but even Jack Del Rio said at a recent press conference that winning the division is their goal this year. If you are not a die hard Jags fan, you are easily going to say that they will be in the cellar again this year, but I disagree.
The Jags may not have the flashy names, or the high-powered offense that blows its opponent out by 50 points, or the sold out stadium every Sunday, but they will be a good football team. The Jags are going to turn some heads this year, and if they don't win the division this year, don't be surprised to see them take down Manning's reign in the near future. The time is now for the Jaguars, and I like what I see from GM Gene Smith and the team he is building.