The Jaguars and Vikings had two of the best defenses in the NFL this past season. They went on incredible runs deep into the playoffs. Both competing in their conference championship. It’s safe to say after their successful seasons, they will come back next year with a ton of momentum and continue their winning ways. Right? Actually, no.
Jacksonville was given a situation where it was almost impossible for them not to win their division. The Colts didn’t have Andrew Luck all year, Houston was on FIRE with Deshaun Watson but then he suffered a season ending injury, and Tennessee was their toughest competition. I’m not trying to take anything away from the Titans as I actually think they are brewing up something special with Mariota and that offense, but they are still a ways away from being a true threat. In the end, Jacksonville took full advantage of the very messy AFC South.
In the Playoffs, the Jaguars squeaked by the Bills in the Wild Card round, dominated Pittsburgh for half the game and upset the Steelers at Heinz Field in the Divisional Round and were minutes away from defeating the Patriots in the AFC Championship but couldn’t quite put the game away and came up short.
The Jaguars earned our respect, especially in the playoffs and I’m not trying to take anything away from their special season. It’s their success that will be their downfall.
The 2017 season and playoff run creates a tougher 2018 schedule. Both New England and Philadelphia are early opponents of the Jags next season. Also the AFC South will be at full strength. Indianapolis will have Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson will be back for the Texans and Mariota is only getting better. Jacksonville could very easily finish 3rd or 4th in their division next season and personally I expect at best a 9-7 record.
This same concept applies to the Vikings in the NFC North. The Bears were just plain out bad, Green Bay lost Aaron Rodgers to injury and the biggest competition was an ‘alright’ Detroit Lions squad. This created a dream scenario for the Vikings and they, like the Jaguars, took full advantage of it.
Minnesota’s 2018 schedule is ridiculously tough. Here’s a list of just some of their competition.
– New England Patriots (Duh)
– LA Rams (Best Offense in Football)
– Green Bay Packers TWICE (Healthy Rodgers)
– New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees)
– Philadelphia Eagles (Defending SB Champs)
– San Francisco (Jimmy Garoppolo)
– Seattle Seahawks (Always a challenge)
Those are just the toughest opponents. Don’t forget about having to face a solid Detroit team twice as well. Minnesota is in for quite the wake up call.
All in all, to me it looks highly unlikely that the Vikings and Jaguars will duplicate their success from a season ago. Opponents returning healthy, much tougher teams scheduled and both are without star QB’s. Not quite the recipe for success.
– Collin Borron (Founder & Owner of The Gridiron Express)