NFL 2018 Season - PS4


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No Excuses
by Dennis Ranahan

The Philadelphia Eagles are the defending Super Bowl Champions … but have a losing record this season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars advanced to the American Football Conference Championship Game last year … but have a losing record this season.

What happened?

The Eagles problems are easier to understand. The year before Philadelphia won their first franchise Super Bowl they had a losing record during the 2016 season. Teams that win a Super Bowl the year after having a losing won/loss mark have not won a playoff game in the season they are defending their title.

Three other teams did it before the Eagles won it all on the heels of a losing campaign last season. The San Francisco 49ers were first to accomplish the feat in 1981, and missed the playoffs in 1982. The St. Louis Rams did it in 1999, then qualified for the postseason in 2000 as a Wild Card team but lost their only playoff game to the New Orleans Saints. In 2001, when Tom Brady became the starter for the New England Patriots and they upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, they didn’t qualify for the playoffs in 2002.

So, the Eagles were going to be in a tough spot this season to match their meteoric rise enjoyed last season. Perhaps it is because a team that wins a Super Bowl off a losing year is operating under the motivational boost of overcoming long odds. Yet, as Super Bowl Champions, the hunter is now the hunted, and the challenge to match the prior season success is simply too steep of a hill to climb for a team not experienced at winning.

Last year, everything seemed to go right for Philadelphia. Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz was on his way to an MVP season before a December injury ended his campaign. His replacement, Nick Foles, had just enough to get the NFC top seed playoff berth and then guided the underdog Eagles to three straight postseason wins over the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots.

This year, the breaks have gone against the Eagles. The most recent example was last week, when Philadelphia surrendered a 17 point fourth quarter lead at Lincoln Financial Field and lost to the Carolina Panthers, 21-17. Now they head to London to meet a Jacksonville Jaguars team that has also stumbled to a 3-4 season mark.

This was supposed to be a big year for the Jaguars. They have what many considered to be the best defense in the game and appeared ready to not only win a postseason game this season but perhaps represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII.

It started well for the Jaguars, they won their first two games of the season over the New York Giants and the defending AFC Champions, who beat them in last year’s playoffs, the New England Patriots.

But, the Jaguars success ended with a pathetic offensive performance in Week Three at home against the Tennessee Titans that resulted in a 9-6 loss. After a win over the New York Jets, the Jaguars have now lost three straight games by lopsided scores to the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

In last Sunday’s game, head coach Doug Marrone, pulled starting quarterback Blake Bortles after he turned the ball over with both interceptions and fumbles. What had started so wonderfully for the Jaguars this season has morphed into a mess.

Perhaps, a team with Super Bowl aspirations is highly questionable when their one major concern is their starting quarterback. Bortles has never solidified himself as a quarterback among the elite, but for the past few games he has been among the worst.

Now, here is the deal, the Jacksonville losses to Kansas City, Dallas and Houston could all be explained by tough motivational spots for the Jaguars. This week, against the Eagles, there are no excuses.

If the Jaguars are going to take advantage of what should be a successful season for them they will beat a team in a predictable down year.

If they don’t, they are in more trouble than we currently think.

Qoxhi Picks: Jacksonville Jaguars (+3) over Philadelphia Eagles