The 2022 NFL season is finally over and we are in the crazy period that is the start of NFL free agency. The regular season was anything but regular. The Denver Broncos were considered to be heavy favorites for the Super Bowl after trading for Russel Wilson in the offseason. Instead, the Broncos were one of the worst teams in the NFL, finishing with a disappointing 5-12 record. The Philadelphia Eagles started the season 8-0 and finished with a dominant 14-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs. This season has been as unpredictable as ever and two teams stick out as surprises: the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions.
Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions are historically bad franchises, both having franchise records below .500. Both franchises have also never played in the Super Bowl, something only four teams have never done. The Jaguars are 8-8 in the playoffs, while the Lions are 7-13. But, there is reason to believe that those historically bad seasons are behind both teams.
Both teams went 9-8 this season after abysmal 2021 seasons. Both teams started 2-6 and gained momentum in the second half of the season to finish strong. The Lions were eliminated from playoff contention minutes before their Week 18 game. The Jaguars clinched the division after an intense nail-biting Saturday night game against their hated rivals, the Tennessee Titans. The Jaguars went on to win their Wild Card playoff game in thrilling fashion against the Chargers, before finally losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs. Both teams head into the NFL offseason poised to solidify championship-caliber teams.
The Lions and the Jaguars have electrifying offenses that are going to be problems for opposing defenses for years to come. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 in total offense for the 2022 season, with the Lions ranked 5th and the Jaguars ranked 10th. Both teams are also ranked in the top 10 in passing offense, with the Lions ranked 6th and the Jaguars ranked 10th. The Lions’ offense is spearheaded by veteran quarterback Jared Goff, young rising star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, and the consistently getting better veteran running back Jamaal Williams. Both Jared Goff and Amon-Ra were Pro Bowlers this year, along with T.J. Hockenson joining them from the Lions’ offense. The Lions were able to have multiple games where they scored 40 points or more, including one against the Jaguars. If the Lions continue having a high powered offense they can be tough to catch.
The Jaguars are spearheaded by their trio of young stars: quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, and receiver Christian Kirk. Everyone in this trio had career years. Trevor threw for over 4,000 yards and showed to the league why he was picked first overall. Travis Etienne ran for over 1,000 yards, cementing himself as one of the league’s top rushers. Christian Kirk rejuvenated his career with over 1,000 receiving yards, silencing his critics. Trevor Lawrence got his first Pro Bowl nod and it’s safe to say that this won’t be his last.
The analysis of both defenses emphasizes why they say that “defenses win championships”. The Lions gave up the most yards on defense, with the Jaguars giving up the 9th most. Both teams were ranked in the bottom five for passing defense. The Jaguars were ranked 12th in rushing defense, but the Lions were ranked 29th. Even though both teams drafted young stars with the first two picks in 2022 draft, Travon Walker for the Jaguars and Aidan Hutchinson for the Lions, it wasn’t enough to consistently stop NFL offenses. Both teams have stellar offenses, but they both need some work on defense in order to have a team that can compete with the top teams in the NFL.
The Lions and the Jaguars are both young teams that have potential, especially on the offensive side of the ball. However, you have to be able to stop opposing teams from scoring to win games and that is something that both teams need to work on. And once both teams create a stellar team on both sides of the ball, it will be sooner, rather than later, that one of these teams will be competing for the Lombardi Trophy.