JACKSONVILLE – Much has been accomplished.
Doug Pederson acknowledged that Friday, a day after the Jaguars won a third consecutive game to stay in control of their postseason fate. The Jaguars' head coach made this much clear, too:
There's much left to do.
"We still have unfinished business," Pederson said Friday, a day after the Jaguars’ 19-3 victory over the New York Jets (7-8) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. "I think the guys sense that, and the guys feel that, and the guys believe that. That's just where we are."
The Jaguars (7-8) won their third consecutive game to move to within a half game of first place in the AFC South behind division-leading Tennessee (7-7). The Jaguars have multiple playoff scenarios, including wild-card possibilities, but the clearest is this:
If they win their final two games, they win the AFC South.
"I like where we're at," Pederson said. "I like where we're at as football team. I like the head space of the guys, where we are. We're just got to focus on these next three or four days or so here, getting healthy and getting recharged here a little bit, and making a nice good push here at the end of the season."
The Jaguars will visit the Houston Texans (1-12-1) in Week 17 and will play host to the Titans in the Week 18 regular-season finale. The Titans play host to Houston Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys (10-4) in Week 17. The Jaguars will win the South if the Titans/Jaguars finish tied for first and the Jaguars win the season finale because that would mean they would have swept the Titans.
The first NFL division tiebreaker is head-to-head record.
"I think the guys are really starting to grow up as the season moves along," Pederson said. "The thing that I appreciate with this group is how we've hung together, how we fought through adversity in the middle part of our season."
The Jaguars, after dropping to 2-6 with a five-game October losing streak with all games decided by a score or less, have won five of seven games. They rallied from 17, nine, seven and 17 points for victories over the Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Titans and Cowboys during that stretch.
They trailed the Jets 3-0 early before taking a 13-3 halftime lead and holding the Jets to 227 yards with 10 first downs.
"We are maturing and we are learning to win – even against really good opponents, fighting to the end," Pederson said. "That's what I appreciate about these guys. It's good to see that. There's great leadership on this football team. The maturity of this football team has definitely grown throughout the course of the year."
The Jaguars' victory Thursday continued a season-long turnaround that has accelerated dramatically in recent weeks. They had the worst record in the NFL each of the last two seasons, having won four games over that span.
"I think we're still a work in progress," Pederson said. "I don't know if anything's 'fixed.' With the success the team is having, I think we've moved on from last season and all that. I think the guys are in a good place mentally."
- Defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot underwent an MRI Friday after sustaining an injury that Pederson said could be an Achilles, foot or ankle. Pederson said he expects an update after the weekend. Pederson said offensive guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Jawaan Taylor are expected to be fine moving forward; Scherff left Thursday's game briefly with an ankle issue and Taylor played through a hamstring issue. Pederson also said outside linebacker Travon Walker and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi have a good chance to play against the Texans after missing Thursday.
- Pederson on Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr., who rushed for 83 yards on 22 carries Thursday and who now has 1,000 yards with four touchdowns on 204 carries this season: "The offensive line has done a great job for him blocking – tight end included and receivers included. Travis has just gotten better. We have a lot of trust and confidence in him as a runner. That's a great accomplishment for a player technically in his first full season." Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, missed his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury.
- Pederson: "We've still got some improvement to do, some work to do. I know every game's not going to be perfect, but we still have to coach and we still have to get better as a team. It is exciting to see us play this type of football this late in the year."