The Jacksonville Jaguars had their most meaningful Sunday of the 2020 season.
No, we are not referring to their 40-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but the New York Jets’ improbable victory over the Los Angeles Rams — a double-digit favourite — that moved the Jaguars into pole position for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
That is a franchise-altering result for the Jaguars, who own the tiebreaker over New York and can now secure Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with losses in their final two games over the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.
Deep down, Lawrence should be happy about this possibility. Not only is the income tax rate far more favourable in Florida compared to New York, the Jaguars are actually well positioned for a Browns-esque turnaround. Despite their 1-13 record, they have accumulated some quality young talent over the last two drafts and also have multiple first-round picks in the upcoming draft (they own the Rams’ 2021 selection from the Jalen Ramsey trade), and additional picks in the second and fourth round as well.
Lawrence already would walk onto a team with a decent offensive line, a good running back in James Robinson, and some intriguing weapons at wide receiver with promising rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. and D.J. Chark on their rookie contracts.
This now becomes a dream job for the next general manager after the Jaguars parted ways with GM David Caldwell three weeks ago. The club is loaded with draft picks, salary cap space and an ownership group that is not afraid to spend on free agents. The potential addition of Lawrence should serve as a great recruiting tool for a head coach as well.
The next — and most critical step — for the Jaguars is getting the general manager and coach right, something they have not done well over the last decade, but having Lawrence potentially in their back pocket should dramatically change the plight of their organization. What a costly win by the Jets.
Here’s what else we learned in Week 15:
Bills are a legitimate Super Bowl contender
Josh Allen has raised the ceiling for the Buffalo Bills franchise.
The third-year quarterback has developed into one of the best passers in the NFL this season, a shocking turnaround considering his accuracy issues over the last two years, and one that helped the Bills win their first division title since 1995 and has positioned them as the most likely team to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs — if that’s at all possible. The primary reason: Allen has been playing at an MVP level over the past six weeks, accumulating 14 touchdown passes and four rushing touchdowns while completing over 70 per cent of his passes, a huge sign of his progression as a passer.
The addition of Stefon Diggs at wide receiver along with Cole Beasley’s reliable play out of the slot has unlocked the Bills’ passing game, which has now become the strength of Sean McDermot’s team. In the past, the Bills had to try and hide Allen’s deficiencies and were forced to be more of a run-the-ball and play defence kind of team, which typically comes with a low ceiling and a tiny margin for error. That is no longer the case in Buffalo as the Bills are getting great QB play on a weekly basis and have won seven of their last eight games — and it would be eight straight if not for a Kyler Murray Hail Mary. The Bills are absolutely for real.
Zeke isn’t the Cowboys’ best running back
It’s been an odd year in many respects for the Dallas Cowboys, but the least surprising element has been how little value the team has gotten out of star running back Ezekiel Elliott.
At a steep $15 million per season, Elliott is the third highest-paid running back in the NFL but has not lived up to his contract or frankly, been very productive in 2020. He has just one game over 100 yards this season, is averaging less than four yards per carry and has generally looked slow hitting the line of scrimmage.
In limited duty, backup RB Tony Pollard has been more efficient and offers more speed and explosive cuts. With Elliott nursing a calf injury, Pollard finally got a start in Week 15 and added far more juice to the offence, displaying speed and explosion out of the backfield while racking up 132 total yards on 21 touches (including nine catches) with two touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers. This is why we advocate against paying big contracts to running backs.
What do the Eagles do with Wentz now?
All of the explanations for Carson Wentz’s disastrous play this season are no longer holding up. With the same coaches, the same offensive line injuries and a similar group of skill position players, rookie QB Jalen Hurts has largely outplayed Wentz in his first two NFL starts, providing more evidence that Wentz was the issue holding the Eagles back.
This is where things get a bit tricky for Philadelphia. They are projected to be almost $50 million over the salary cap in 2021. That means a lot of veteran players will have to be cut to create cap space and it will be almost impossible to justify Wentz’s $34 million salary cap hit if he is a backup quarterback to Hurts.
If all things were equal and the Eagles brass preferred Hurts moving forward, the logical conclusion would likely be a trade. There would certainly be some suitors. But because of how recently Wentz’s contract was extended, trading him in 2021 would create another cap problem as the Eagles would have to take on a dead money charge of more than $30 million just to get rid of his contract, according to Overthecap.com. That would be a hard pill for Philadelphia to swallow, and would hardly make sense in a cap-crunched year.
Hurts’ recent surge could end up saving the job of GM Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson, but figuring out what to do with Wentz is an extremely challenging problem for the Eagles going forward.
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