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What we learned: Jaguars 45, Texans 7

Posted Dec 18, 2017

Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 45-7 victory over the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday

JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 45-7 victory over the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday

1.The Jaguars are in the postseason. We start here because where else is there to start? The Jaguars (10-4) on Sunday clinched their first postseason appearance since 2007. This team is capable of more than just a postseason appearance. But considering the depths of past five or six seasons, qualifying for the postseason is an accomplishment not to be overlooked.

2.The Magic Number is one. Any combination of a Jaguars victory or Tennessee Titans loss in the last two weeks of the season will clinch the AFC South for the Jaguars. The Jaguars can clinch the AFC South with a victory at San Francisco Sunday or if the Tennessee Titans lose to the Los Angeles Rams in Nashville Sunday. They also can clinch the division with a victory over Tennessee on December 31. It’s there for the taking. They’re that close.

3.Improving the seed will be tough. The Jaguars currently hold the No. 3 seed in the AFC and are assured of that if they win their final two games. To improve to the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, they need New England (11-3) and/or Pittsburgh (11-3) to lose at least one game. The Patriots play host to the Buffalo Bills (8-6) and visit the New York Jets (5-9) in their final two games; the Steelers visit Houston (4-10) Monday and play host to Cleveland (0-14).

4.Calais Campbell was a great free-agent signing. We keep learning this and learning it and learning it. The veteran defensive end had two more sacks Sunday and now has 14.5 for the season. His influence with young players may be as important as what he does on the field. Phenomenal.

5.Blake Bortles is good. It’s time to rethink the narrative on the Jaguars’ quarterback. He’s a big reason the Jaguars are winning. He’s a big reason they’re dangerous in the postseason. He and the offensive line are primary reasons this offense is functioning at a high level.

6.Blake Bortles is good. This is well worth repeating. Bortles is playing at a high level and it shows in every part of his game. His decision-making. His pocket presence. His accuracy. His confidence. His footwork in the pocket. Give Bortles credit. He has taken a lot of criticism in four seasons in Jacksonville – a lot of it deserved – but he has developed in a major way this season. It’s a story that shouldn’t be overlooked.

7.This team is dangerous. Nos.  5 and 6 make this true. The Jaguars’ defense has been Super Bowl-caliber all season and it played that way again Sunday. That is long since been the case. But a Super Bowl-caliber defense plus a quarterback playing at a high level? Maybe few saw that coming, but it’s here and it means the Jaguars can win anywhere – and against any team.

8.Jaydon Mickens can play receiver, too. Speaking of stories not to be overlooked, there are few stories in the NFL in recent weeks as good as the Jaguars’ first-year wide receiver. Promoted from the practice squad in October, he has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice since then. He entered Sunday with one career NFL reception. He finished Sunday’s first half with two touchdown receptions. Unreal.

9.Keelan Cole has a chance to be really good. The rookie undrafted free agent caught a career-high seven passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. He appears to be getting better and gaining confidence by the week. Remember when he looked lost and a bit overwhelmed early in the season? Those days seem long gone.

10.The defense is still dominant.  We’re running out of ways to describe this defense. Dominant. Super Bowl-caliber. Best in the NFL. All are accurate. The Jaguars held the Texans to 186 yards and nine first downs. That’s the fifth time they’ve held an opponent to 12 or fewer first downs and 203 fewer yards. That’s once-or-twice a decade stuff …

11.The Jaguars can win without Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars are 3-0 without their rookie running back and have won those games 27-0, 23-7 and 45-7. They are better with Fournette but they clearly can function without him.

12.The offensive line is pass protecting at a high level. We’ve been learning this the last few weeks, but the learning continued Sunday. Bortles wasn’t sacked by the Seahawks a week ago and the line allowed just one pressure in that game. The only sack allowed Sunday was a Bortles scramble for no gain; he was hit just four times. The pocket is staying clean. That’s never a bad thing.

13.EverBank Field is a home-field advantage. Were you there? Did you hear it? Did you feel it? Back-to-back sellouts. Back-to-back raucous December victories. This is a special place when the Jaguars are winning. Guess what? The Jaguars are winning.

14.The Jaguars are in the postseason. We started here, but doesn’t it feel right to end here, too?

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