Autopsy Report: RIP Jaguars & Vikings

Swinging Johnson

Monday, January 22, 2018 1:37 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 1:37 PM UTC

Jacksonville and Minnesota should be celebrated and not mourned after mounting championship-worthy seasons. Let's see where these clubs go from here and how the NFL oddsmakers may view them next season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

To the fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars, you have my condolences but to those who were prescient enough to back them in their NFL picks, getting a touchdown head start against New England in the AFC title game, you have my admiration. Jacksonville was the Cinderella story of the 2017 season, and had the Jaguars not been matched against the greatest quarterback ever to toss a pigskin, they would have been playing in Minneapolis on the first Sunday of February.

So, what went wrong? Nothing. As a matter of fact, we should all be extolling the virtues of everyone on the Jaguars from the water boy to the owner. The entire team went from zeroes to heroes in just one season, and the addition of former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin in the front office has plenty to do with this team's meteoric rise. But now the question is: Where do they go from here and was this just a one-and-done? The most pressing concern is whether or not to guarantee Blake Bortles' fifth season on his contract, which was picked up but won't be fully guaranteed until March. Entering the season, Bortles had just 11 career wins under his belt. But something clicked, and there is no question in my mind that he deserves to enter next season as the incumbent under center.

But the Jags need interior line help on the offensive side and perhaps they can acquire that through the draft. If mammoth blindside tackle Orlando Brown of Oklahoma is still available at No. 29 of the first-round, then they will have gotten Bortles a new best buddy for the next decade. Also, the Jags need to determine whether or not they franchise or sign receiver Allen Robinson, sidelined since September after tearing his ACL, and whether they continue to pay oft-injured wideout Allen Hurns considering the emergence of rookie Keelan Cole. Signing a tight end would also help the cause as Marcedes Lewis will be 34 next season and is no longer a starting-caliber option for Bortles or whomever is slinging for Jacksonville next season.

Experience is a powerful teacher, and a little more maturity will mean less critical penalties to more seasoned teams like the New England Patriots. All things considered, Jacksonville is poised to win the AFC South again and the NFL odds will reflect their ascension as one of the premier teams heading into the 2018 season. But next year they will no longer be a dark horse and teams will be aware that these Jaguars are no longer toothless.

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Paul Pozluszny tells Fournette “We are just getting started.” #Jaguars #DTWD

— Brian Chojnacki (@BroadcastingBri) January 21, 2018

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Miracle is over. The Vikings will not be issued home-field advantage in Super Bowl LII because they endured their sixth straight defeat in the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota did its best Lazarus impersonation when it snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and wound up stunning the Saints in the divisional round. That euphoria apparently deflated rather than buoyed Minnesota because the Vikings looked as flat as they have all season in their 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The main question for next season is: Who's your quarterback? Will career journeyman Case Keenum get a crack at it or will they go with Sam Bradford or the forever injured Teddy Bridgewater? That will be the biggest offseason story for the Vikings as all three guys are free agents. Another concern is keeping this offensive line intact. Guards Joe Berger and Nick Easton will need to be re-signed, but Berger turns 36 in May and the Vikes may want a younger option.

Minnesota will be looking for a new offensive coordinator as well because Pat Shurmur is expected to get the Giants' head coaching job. That's rather ironic because the Vikings' entire focus in free agency and in the draft will be on the offensive side of the ball. Now they have to search the coaching ranks to fill their vacancy and implement a new offensive scheme that will suit whoever is under center next season. There is a good measure of uncertainty in Minnesota and how they handle it will determine whether or not this team gets back to the conference championship game or reverses direction and slowly melts into the NFC pack.

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