HomeFootball DirtDespite skidding, Jaguars still have a shot at AFC South title, but...

Despite skidding, Jaguars still have a shot at AFC South title, but further success uncertain

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are good at a lot of things and great at nothing.

That has become clear during the team’s three-game losing streak to AFC contenders, the latest defeat being a mistake-filled, 23-7 home loss to playoff-bound Baltimore on Sunday night.

Jacksonville simply has more holes than heroes.

A roster that general manager Trent Baalke and coach Doug Pederson believed was good enough to compete for a Super Bowl might not even have the talent and depth to win the rebuilding AFC South.

The Jaguars (8-6) are now tied with Houston and Indianapolis atop the division. Although Jacksonville holds tiebreakers over its rivals, another loss down the stretch could knock the franchise out of the postseason picture for good. Jacksonville plays at surging Tampa Bay (7-7) on Sunday.

No one should expect a quick fix considering the Jags have issues on both sides of the ball. They have been outrushed by 285 yards during their skid, a staggering margin that shows just how ineffective they’ve been on both lines of scrimmage.

“We have to play better if we want to win,” linebacker Foye Oluokun said. “You can’t win with a losing effort. That wasn’t a winning effort.”

Jacksonville has yet to deliver one in December.

The Jags gave up 491 yards to Jake Browning and Cincinnati on “Monday Night Football” two weeks ago and then allowed way too many explosive plays to fellow backup Joe Flacco and Cleveland six days later.

Against the Ravens — Jacksonville’s first appearance on “Sunday Night Football” since 2008 — it was a comedy of errors for the home team.

Brandon McManus missed two field goals 50 yards or longer. Rookie receiver Parker Washington extended his streak of games with a costly miscue to three. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence fumbled twice — including once in the red zone with no one around him — threw a pass well short of the goal line in the waning seconds of the first half with no timeouts and ended up in the NFL’s concussion protocol following a late-game tackle.

And Jacksonville’s defense got gouged for 251 yards rushing, the most in any game during Pederson’s tenure as a head coach.

“Obviously, losing three in a row, we put ourselves in a little bit of a tricky situation,” receiver Jamal Agnew said. “We’ve got to be more urgent and just more consistent. … We’ve been here before. We know how to get ourselves out of situations. The urgency’s just got to pick up.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Despite a litany of mistakes the last three games, the Jags had their chances. They forced overtime against the Bengals, rallied to make it a one-possession game against the Browns and trailed 10-7 to the Ravens in the third quarter before Lamar Jackson’s back-breaking sack escape led to a touchdown.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Jacksonville’s rookie class has been mostly a bust. Right tackle and first-round pick Anton Harrison has been solid, but second-round tight end Brenton Strange (injured), third-round running back Tank Bigsby (turnover prone), fourth-round linebacker Ventrell Miller (injured), fourth-round defensive tackle Tyler Lacy (nine tackles) and fifth-round pass rusher Yasir Abdullah (inactive weekly) collectively have contributed little in 2023.

STOCK UP

Agnew returned after missing four games and made an immediate impact. He caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence that provided a spark after a scoreless first half and had 178 more yards on four returns. The Jaguars need to get him more involved with Christian Kirk (groin) on injured reserve and fellow receiver Zay Jones (knee/hamstring) dealing with injuries.

STOCK DOWN

McManus has missed four of his last five field-goal attempts, a surprising slump for a veteran who made 20 in a row between late September and late November. But none of his misses was a gimme.

He banged the right upright from 50 yards out against Baltimore and hooked a 55-yarder left later in the first half. He also missed from 48 yards against Cincinnati in Week 13 and from 55 yards the previous week at Houston.

INJURIES

The Jaguars will have a better idea as the week goes on about Lawrence’s chances of clearing concussion protocol before Sunday. Jones was scheduled to have tests later Monday to determine the extent of his hamstring injury.

KEY NUMBER

5 — Number of losses the Jaguars have at EverBank Stadium this season. They are 2-5 at home and have scored more points in their two wins (71) in Jacksonville than their five losses (67).

NEXT STEPS

Going on the road to the in-state Buccaneers might be the best scenario for reeling Jacksonville, which is 6-1 away from home this season.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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