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If, And, But: The Jacksonville Jaguars Will Be in the Playoffs in 2013

Yahoo Contributor Network

It goes without saying that 2012 was not the Year of the Cat.

In 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars took the field for the first time and finished 4-12.

Last season, the team managed only two victories during its 18th NFL season, the worst showing in the history of the franchise.

Now the club prepares for 2013 and will have a fourth different head coach on the sidelines (Gus Bradley) since Week 12 of 2011.

Still, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2007…

If: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew returns at 100 percent and resumes his place amongst the league's best running backs. The franchise's all-time leader in total touchdowns scored ran for 414 yards in his first six games in 2012 before being lost for the season. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Jones-Drew still wound up leading the club in rushing yardage. As a team last year, Jacksonville totaled 1,369 yards on the ground. In 2011, Jones-Drew led the league with 1,606 yards rushing.

And: Bradley and new coordinator Bob Babich can turn around a defensive unit that fell off dramatically a season ago. In 2011, the Jaguars were a top 10 defense in the NFL across the board in terms of total yards allowed (6th), as well as both in rushing (9th) and passing (8th). But they plummeted to 30th in the league this past season and only two teams gave up more yards on the ground. Free agent additions such as defensive tackle Roy Miller (Buccaneers) and linebacker Geno Hayes (Bears) should hopefully help.

But: Is the team sold on quarterback Blaine Gabbert? The 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, the former Missouri standout suffered through a rough rookie season. Gabbert completed only 50.8 percent of his passes, throwing for 12 scores, 11 interceptions and losing five of 14 fumbles while being sacked 40 times. Last season, he lasted just 10 games but upped his completion percentage (58.3), throwing for nine scores while being picked off just six times. He did lose 3-of-5 fumbles but by all indications he looked like a much more confident player. But with a change at head coach could there be a change behind center?

So what do you think? With Houston emerging as an NFL power and Indianapolis back in the playoffs last year after a major shakeup, it doesn't figure to be an easy first season for Bradley and company. But all the Jaguars need do is look at what those Colts did in one year and that should be motivation enough for the club. But do they have enough talent to pull off a second straight resurrection job in the AFC South?

Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.

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