Jaguars AFC's No 1 Seed

Jaguars Will Be AFC’s Top Team In 2023

Don't worry, I haven't gone crazy. Not yet at least.

I don't think the Jacksonville Jaguars are the most talented team in the AFC. I don't think they're better than the Chiefs. And, I don't think they'll win the Super Bowl this year. 

But, I do think the Jags will be the AFC's top team in the regular season and snatch the coveted No. 1 seed and bye through the first round of the playoffs. Hear me out:

What Do The Odds Say?

The bookmakers agree to some extent. The Jaguars are -150 favorites to win the AFC South and -200 to make the playoffs.

2023 AFC South odds
Jacksonville Jaguars-150
Tennessee Titans+400
Indianapolis Colts+500
Houston Texans+700

The books are pretty confident Jacksonville will be a playoff team this year, but I don't think they've gone far enough. The Jags' 9.5-win total suggests the books think Jacksonville is more of a fringe playoff team than a serious No. 1 seed contender. It's the same mark the books gave the Saints, Jets, and Browns, and I'm team Jacksonville over those squads, easily.

The Jaguars Are Better Than You Think

It may take a second to wrap your head around the Jags actually being good again; I get it. They're the team of Tim Tebow at TE, Urban Meyer kicking players, and potentially relocating to England.

But, these Jags are a legit contender. Despite winning just nine games last year, the Jaguars were one of the AFC’s top teams. The Jags’ +54 point differential was 115 points better than the division’s second-best team and ranked fourth in the AFC. It was higher than the Ravens and Chargers’ point diff, too, and those two squads both won 10 games.

EPA Agrees

Expected Points Added is my go-to stat to grade out team offenses and defenses — it's basically a measure of if you're making good plays. Pretty simple stuff. Five teams in the NFL last year were top-12 in both offensive and defensive EPA: The 49ers, Cowboys, Eagles, Bills, and….. you guessed it: the Jaguars.

Trevor Lawrence Will Become A Top QB Tier

Sure, the Jags were good last year. But the key here is that they should be even better in 2023 on the back of an ascending QB.

Trevor Lawrence was solid in 2023, finishing seventh in NFL MVP voting and leading Jacksonville to the postseason. But now, with new receiver Calvin Ridley in the mix and another year under QB-whispering coach Doug Pederson, Lawrence could take another jump.

Lawrence was a generational talent coming out of his draft, but his rookie season took a lot of shine off the prospect (thanks Urban Meyer). But, just like Peyton Manning turned a rough rookie campaign into a Hall of Fame career, I think Lawrence is on the same track.

It may seem foolish to heave around a Manning comp for a guy like Lawrence, but it was a comparison that was made often during Lawrence's draft process, and the progression made in each guy's first two NFL seasons looks awfully similar:

Comparing Trevor Lawrence and Peyton Manning's First Two Seasons
 RecordTDINTCmp%QB Rating

The Schedule Is A Cakewalk 

Talent and quarterback play can get the Jags pretty far, but an easy schedule will carry them all the way to the top. Of every team that made the playoffs last year, the Jaguars have the easiest strength of schedule entering 2023. By opponent win percentage, the Jags have the 10th-easiest schedule in the entire league next year.

The Jags' three divisional opponents (accounting for six games) are all retooling or rebuilding and will likely start rookie QBs this season. Outside of the div, Jacksonville will face the Panthers, Buccaneers, Steelers, and Falcons, who all have 2023 win totals of 8.5 or lower (suggesting they'll be below .500 teams). I don't see how the Jaguars can't win at least 12 games.

2023 Jacksonsville Jaguars Strength of Schedule

Also, most of Jacksonville’s top opponents for that No. 1 seed (the Bills, Bengals, Chiefs) have tougher schedules, with opponent win percentages over 50%. While the Jags beat up on bottom feeders, the rest of the AFC's top teams will beat up on each other.