ESPN predicts a 4-13 finish for the Jaguars

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With a first-time head coach, a rookie quarterback, and one of the youngest rosters in football, the 2021 season was expected to be a rebuilding year for Jacksonville. But even taking that into account, the start of the season was a bit disappointing.

The team lost its first five games before earning a win for the first time in more than a year against the Miami Dolphins in London. That was followed by a west-coast clunker when the Jags were blown out by Seattle 31-7, but last week, the Jaguars earned their biggest win in a long time by upsetting the Buffalo Bills 9-6.

The team now sits at 2-6 on the year and enters a winnable stretch of games, starting with a road matchup against Indianapolis this week. However, ESPN’s Mike DiRocco doesn’t see this team markedly improving its standing during the back half of the season. In his final record prediction for the Jags, DiRocco projected a 4-13 finish.

What we know: The offense has to work for everything it gets — and it’s not getting much. The Jaguars are averaging 16.5 points per game (30th) and 332.9 yards per game (23rd). They’ve also managed eight explosive plays (a rush of 20 or more yards or a reception of 30 or more yards). Trevor Lawrence is making progress, but he’s dealing with injuries on the offensive line and a group of receivers that is among the bottom third in the NFL in production. It’s obvious the Jaguars need to get Lawrence some help, but it’s not going to come until the offseason, so they’ll have to muddle their way through the second half of the season.

What we don’t know yet: Is Urban Meyer going to work out as an NFL coach? The biggest on-field red flag was the way the team performed in the opener and after the bye week. The Jaguars looked unprepared, sloppy and confused. They also had trouble lining up or getting the correct number of players on the field — and they had 26 penalties combined in those two games and have averaged 6.5 penalties in the other six games. Those issues — with the possible exception of penalties — are related to coaching, and that falls squarely at Meyer’s feet.

Final record prediction: 4-13. Can’t expect the defense to perform every week the way it did against the Bills, but Houston and the Jets are the two most winnable games remaining. — Mike DiRocco

This is a conservative prediction, but it’s understandable. This offense is currently devastated by injuries as its missing two starting offensive linemen, one of its best receivers, and its top tight end. The defense had an anomalous performance last week after struggling considerably in almost every game this season.

It seems fair to assume the Bills win was more of an aberration than a sign this team has turned the corner, but the Jags’ next three games come against teams who currently sit at .500 or worse. The opportunity to build off the momentum from last Sunday’s victory is certainly there for Jacksonville, but it will need to be much more consistent moving forward.