Jaguars playoff chances: How Jacksonville can win the AFC South after ‘TNF’ win over Jets

By | December 22, 2022

The 2022 NFL season has had its share of surprises, but this is a storyline few saw coming just a few weeks ago: The Jaguars are suddenly a legitimate playoff contender.

Despite starting 2-6, Jacksonville is not only in the conversation but controls its fate in the AFC South. Part of the reason is the Titans’ rapid collapse, but another part is how quickly Trevor Lawrence has progressed under first-year coach Doug Pederson.

Even if the defense is undermanned, Pederson has his team believing it can make an unexpected run just like this franchise did five years ago. A win over the Jets on Thursday night only strengthened its position. 

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Here’s now the Jaguars can win the AFC South and snap their playoff drought.

Where do the Jaguars stand in the AFC playoff picture?

The Jaguars are currently No. 9 in the AFC, trailing the Chargers and Dolphins by 1.5 games in the wild-card race, but their hopes rest in the AFC South.

Jacksonville trails Tennessee by a half-game after the win over the Jets but controls its fate. If the Jaguars beat the Texans in Week 17 and take down the Titans in Week 18, they will win the AFC South. There is even a scenario in which the Jaguars can lose to Houston but still win the division.

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The Jaguars eliminated the Colts from AFC South contention with Thursday’s win, so the division is down to last year’s AFC No. 1 seed (Tennessee) and No. 16 seed (Jacksonville). 

What playoff tiebreakers are in the Jaguars’ favor?

The Jaguars temporarily hold the divisional tiebreaker over the Titans as a result of their Week 14 win at Tennessee, but the tiebreaker will be determined by their Week 18 matchup in Jacksonville.

If the Jaguars win in Week 18, they will win the season series and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Jaguars lose in Week 18, the Titans will have the tiebreaker thanks to a better divisional record.

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What games are left on the Jaguars’ schedule?

The Jaguars face the one-win Texans in Week 17 before the critical matchup with the Titans in Week 18.

There is a great chance the Week 18 matchup will be as a win-and-in game for both sides. In fact, there is no scenario that allows the Jaguars to win the AFC South before Week 18. Even a win over the Texans and two Titans losses beforehand would still leave Tennessee in a win-and-in scenario.

The Titans can win the AFC South before Week 18 only if they manage wins over both the Texans and Cowboys while the Jaguars lose to the Texans.

Anything can happen, but the chances of Week 18 determining the division are strong.

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How good are the Jaguars’ AFC South chances now?

The Jaguars can win the AFC South by winning their next two games. In fact, even a loss to the Texans in Week 17 wouldn’t end their chances if the Titans lost to the Cowboys. That means Jacksonville has a wide-open path to the playoffs.

The Titans might be without quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle) the rest of the way, so the Jaguars arguably have the advantage even if their path is slightly more complicated than Tennessee’s.