JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 23-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1.The Jaguars are good... It's time to end any fuzziness on this. The Jaguars have won five games by 16 or more points this season. They are ninth in the NFL in total offense and third in total defense. They are first in the NFL in rushing and first in pass defense. They lead the NFL in sacks. Those are not things done by teams that aren't good.
Images from the Jaguars Week 9 matchup with the Bengals.
2. … and they really can win in Jacksonville.It was sort of silly to believe they couldn't, but they hadn't done it this season until Sunday. Now, they have done it. So, now we can stop talking about it.
3.They can win back-to-back games, too.And perhaps we can stop talking about this, too.
4.The Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South.Well, they remain tied for first, anyway. This is the latest that has been true since 2010.
5.The Jaguars can win in a street fight.The Jaguars pulled away in the second half Sunday, but for a couple of quarters this one had a brawl-type feel – and not just because of the brawl that ended the first half. There was also a lot of chippiness throughout. The Jaguars didn't just hold their own in that environment – they thrived.
6.The Jaguars are establishing an identity.This goes beyond just running and playing good defense. This is turning into a tough team that can hold its ground. The Bengals like to intimidate opponents and they're known for playing on the edge of the rules. Not only weren't the Jaguars intimidated Sunday, they became the aggressors. This is a tough team that won't be pushed around. Hmmm …
7.The Jaguars can run …Well, we knew this already, but it's worth noting that the Jaguars remain first in the NFL in rushing through eight games. They have rushed for at least 99 yards in every game this season. They have rushed for more than 140 yards in seven of eight games. This team can run.
8. … and they can run without Leonard Fournette.The Jaguars have rushed for 188 and 140 yards, respectively, in the last two games – and that's with Fournette not playing either game. Raise your hand if you believed that was possible a couple of weeks ago.
9.The Jaguars' offensive line is for real.This is not a perfect group yet, but goodness does it deserve a lot of credit. Maligned throughout the preseason, the offensive line has allowed the Jaguars to lead the in NFL in rushing – and it has allowed just 11 sacks this season. It played Sunday without starting right guard A.J. Cann, which meant center Brandon Linder played guard with Tyler Shatley starting at center. The result: 140 yards rushing, no sacks allowed and no three-and-outs. Impressive.
13.Blake Bortles isn't holding the Jaguars back.It has been "a thing" at times in the first eight games of this season to bash Bortles. That being "a thing" is understandable because Bortles struggled at times in those first eight games – and he struggled a lot in his first three NFL seasons. But Bortles in the last six games is playing better – and his play Sunday, particularly in the first half, was a major reason the Jaguars won.
14.Jalen Ramsey is good.Really good. Never mind the fight with Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green – or the debate over whether Ramsey should have been ejected (the belief here remains that he should not have been). Ramsey through most of one half held the six-time Pro Bowl selection to one reception for six yards. That projects to two receptions for 12 yards. If Ramsey isn't a Pro Bowl/All-Pro selection this season there are a whole lot of all-time greats playing cornerback around the NFL.
15.Calais Campbell is good …The veteran defensive end has an NFL-leading 11 sacks. His consistency and impact has been remarkable.
16. … but so is the rest of the Jaguars' defense.We've gone over the particulars over and over since Sunday, but they're worth going over again. The Jaguars held the Bengals to 148 yards – 16 in the second half – and eight first downs. The Bengals were one of eight on third downs and rushed for 1.7 yards per carry. This defense is suffocating and it's definitely capable of taking the Jaguars where they want to go.