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Jags positioned well at bye week


Forget about Sunday's game. It's not worthy of analysis beyond this: The Jaguars are in a class above the Jets. Both teams came into the game with 2-2 records, which tells you what early-season records are worth.

The Jaguars are a playoff team that believes it can be a Super Bowl contender. The Jets are a team with deep, deep talent issues, and that's not the Jets' biggest problem; their salary cap is.

With the Jaguars now heading into their bye week, let's use this space for some evaluation. Where do the Jaguars stand five games into this season?

Let's begin with 3-2. You'd like it to be 4-1, but it is what it is and it's not that bad. Given the demanding state of the Jaguars' September schedule, a 3-2 mark at the bye week is acceptable and leaves the Jaguars in position for a run to the playoffs and or the AFC South title.

The bad news is the Colts are 5-0, which leaves the Jaguars two games behind the defending division champs. Don't despair. If you watched any of the Colts' come-from-behind, 14-13 win over the winless Titans on Sunday, you have to know the Colts can be had.

They can't stop the run. The Colts went into the day 30th in the league against the run and promptly allowed an 88-yard, all-runs opening touchdown drive by the Titans, who had a rookie making only his second start at quarterback. The Colts had to know the Titans were going to feature their running game but, even at that, the Colts couldn't stop them.

The Colts have a bye this week, too. When they return to action, they will face Clinton Portis and the Redskins, who have one of the best rushing attacks in the league. The Colts will follow that game with trips to Denver and New England.

We're talking about a stretch of schedule in which the Jaguars could, should and must close the gap on the Colts. The Jaguars travel to Houston and Philadelphia, then come home to face the Titans and Texans.

The AFC South race is not over. The Jaguars are very much alive.

Their standing in the overall playoff picture is even more important. The Jaguars are 2-1 in AFC games, with a win over Pittsburgh that provides a big-time tie-breaker advantage.

What about the Jaguars' performance to date?

Well, other than for an unexplained collapse in week four against the Redskins, the Jaguars defense has played at a high level. It needs to get Marcus Stroud (ankle) back to full health, which is the reason he was rested against the Jets. Mike Peterson (knee and shoulder) has also been nagged by injuries and he needs the bye week, too.

The Jaguars' priority on defense is overcoming the loss of Reggie Hayward. Rob Meier is filling the void but Meier is a natural tackle. Might rookie Brent Hawkins provide the pass-rush the Jaguars lost when Hayward tore his Achilles?

Offensively, quarterback Byron Leftwich has played at a high level in all but one game, the loss to the Colts, and Reggie Williams has emerged as a "number one" receiver.

Rookie running back Maurice Jones-Drew is a star in the making, first-round pick Marcedes Lewis was slowed by a high-ankle sprain and should begin to assert himself after the bye week, and all of the arrows on offense are pointing upward.

Special teams has struggled. Josh Scobee has found the range in the last two games, however, and improvement should be expected in the coverage and return units.

There's nothing about which to be alarmed in Jacksonville. The same can't be said in Indianapolis. The Jaguars don't have the Colts' obvious problems, but they also don't have the Colts' two-game lead.

As it stands, that's the only negative about the Jaguars' 3-2 record. One of their two losses was to the Colts. It's a loss that's worth two games.

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