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An attitude of cautious optimism clouds the fan base in Jacksonville which entered the NFL in 1995. The Jags are tied with Carolina as the 3rd-youngest franchise, one year older than the Baltimore Ravens, and seven years the elder of the Houston Texans.
Jacksonville has plenty of company among franchises that have never won a Super Bowl. Believe it or not, twelve of the thirty-two current franchises are on that list. It includes the Cardinals which is tied with the Bears as the oldest NFL franchise, It also contains the fifth-oldest franchise, the Lions. The other nine are the Bengals, Bills, Browns, Chargers, Falcons, Panthers, Texans, Titans and Vikings.
Of that group, only four franchises have never even been to the Super Bowl. On that list, Jacksonville is only joined by the Browns, Lions and Texans.
The Jags are widely seen this year as a top darkhorse candidate to break through after beating the spread as an 8.5-point underdog at Kansas City, but falling 27-20 in the 2022 AFC divisional playoff loss at Arrowhead.
Super Bowl LVIII (58) will be held at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on February 11.
The first game on the 2023 Jacksonville schedule could not be more important as it puts the team on the road for an early Sunday opener against division foe Indianapolis as a 3.5-point favorite. The first home game brings the Chiefs to town in week 2.
Thus begins the league's 12th toughest schedule, according to Sharp Football Analysis. Week 3 on the schedule keeps Jacksonville at home against Houston, before heading to England for consecutive games in Wembley and Tottenham Stadiums against the Falcons and Bills, respectively. The team then returns home to face the Colts again before heading to New Orleans and Pittsburgh. The mid-season break arrives in week 9.
Not everyone is onboard with lofty expectations for the Jags. In June, Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Jacksonville as having just the 15th-best roster and applied an over/under on wins at 9.5 games, while Jacksonville's Super Bowl odds on FanDuel trail 11 other teams at +2800.
It should be noted here that even PFF expects the Jags to repeat as champions of the AFC South, concluding that the addition of Calvin Ridley, (along with) Trevor Lawrence’s continued improvement and a weak division should allow that to occur. Jacksonville won consecutive AFC Central titles in 1998 and 1999.
The team could use fewer distraction than the likes of what came down on draft day when it as revealed that OT Cam Robinson violated the league's performance enhancing drug policy and would face suspension. At the end of June, the penalty was put at 4 games to begin the season. Robinson started 14 games in 2022, but missed the final five with a knee injury, after signing a three-year, $34.25 million extension.
The offensive line ranked 5th in the NFL a year ago with just 1.7 sacks allowed per game.
LB Foyesade Oluokun led the team, and the NFL, in tackles with 184. Edge rusher Josh Allen led the team in sacks with 7 where Jacksonville ranked just 26th as a team.
On offense, Lawrence still has Christian Kirk, Zay Flowers and Evan Engram at his disposal. The trio accounted for 2,699 yards receiving with Kirk leading the unit in yards (1,108) and touchdowns (8). Jones need to improve on the team-leading 13 drops.
Travis Etienne led the Jags in rushing with 1,125 yards, but his 5 touchdowns only tied Lawrence for the team lead.
Lawrence threw for 4,113 yards and 25 touchdowns with 8 interceptions to place him 10th in passer rating and 12th in yards per game, while tying for 8th in touchdowns.
Jacksonville appears to be building something special on the First Coast of Florida, and 2023 could be a really special season.