It’s been a few years since this could be said, but it’s absolutely true: The Jacksonville Jaguars are playing in a must-watch game this weekend. Their game against the Philadelphia Eagles is one with myriad storylines on and off the field that add extra juice.
On the field, this game has two of the hottest offenses in the NFL featuring two young quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence is starting to grow into his potential as the savior of the Jaguars, and Jalen Hurts has improved to the point where he has been one of the most productive players in the league. Styles can make fights in the NFL, and Lawrence and Hurts play two contrasting styles of football — but both work. These quarterbacks have incredible mobility that let them create plays with their legs, but Lawrence operates closer to a traditional dropback QB. Hurts is straight from the future, running an offense that mirrors what we see on Saturdays to great efficiency.
Off the field, the main story is Doug Pederson returning to Philadelphia and facing his old team. Even though Pederson delivered the franchise’s first Super Bowl trophy during the 2017 season, he was unceremoniously fired following the 2020 season (thank you, Carson Wentz). Since then, the Eagles quickly rebuilt their offense around Hurts — which Pederson reportedly leaned toward doing late in his Philadelphia tenure — while Pederson is thriving with the Jaguars. Things have worked out so far for both sides since they went their separate ways, but now Pederson will have a chance for a “revenge game” against his old squad.
Does Pederson expect an appreciative reception from the Philly faithful? "You hope it's a good one, obviously, for the things you did there, but I also know that crowd and they could be a little hostile," Pederson told reporters this week. "Hey, even when I was there and we were winning games or losing games, you were still getting booed, so it doesn't really matter.
The surrounding casts that allow each team's quarterback to operate at a high level are a big piece of the puzzle as well. The Eagles have a road-grading offensive line, two highly skilled receivers in A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith and a creative play-caller with head coach Nick Sirianni orchestrating a diverse offense that has been difficult to stop. The Jaguars have been getting great play from a host of players on offense, but running back James Robinson, wide receiver Christian Kirk and right tackle Jawaan Taylor have really stood out.
On the flip side, both of these teams possess defenses that have performed well in their own right. The Jaguars' defense is a speedy, hard-hitting unit that has allowed just 10 points and forced five turnovers over the past two games. No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker has shown the physical upside that made him a tantalizing draft prospect and the other players have filled in nicely behind them. The Eagles are fresh off of a nine-sack performance (again, thank you Carson Wentz) and have one of the deepest defensive lines in the game. For lovers of trench play and different styles of quarterbacking, this game is set to stand out.
This might be an early season matchup, but it has all the theatrics that remind us why we love football in the first place. Two top teams, young players to get invested in and a coach heading back to where he became famous. This has all the makings of a classic regular season game.