The Jacksonville Jaguars have their penultimate game of this football season at 4:05 on Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints.
While there apparently is a path to the playoffs that involves the Colts and Texans losing out and the Jags winning out, it’s hard to get excited about that given the opportunities the Jags have had and blown this year.
The Jaguars: a 5-9 team that could have been 9-5. Instead, Sunday’s game will be more of interest to the fantasy football set.
Expect people to start skill players from the Jaguars and the Saints. In my playoff game this week, I have four such players going: Saints WRs Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks and RB Tim Hightower. And Jags RB Denard Robinson.
All of these skill players have strong matchups, because neither defense has proved adept at stopping anyone consistently this year. It’s been so bad in New Orleans that they fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
It didn’t help. The issue may be talent, not scheme, though by the time the late afternoon start hits at the Superdome, the tens of thousands in the crowd likely will be too sloshed to care.
If there is a storyline to watch in this one, beyond the expected high scoring, it will be one of franchise trajectory.
The Saints may not be in a position to keep QB Drew Brees past this year. His 2016 salary cap hit: $30 million. Brees’ number already has New Orleans almost $5 million over the cap for next year, even as they have yet to draft, sign free agents, et al.
Jacksonville, at the end of the Coughlin era, lived through cap issues. The team was so far over the cap on core players that they had to pay minimum salaries everywhere else, fielding some of the worst rosters imaginable and digging a hole the team didn’t recover from for a full decade.
It looks like New Orleans is headed in that direction. Talk of trading Brees and coach Sean Payton is in the air.
It’s not that bad here. No one is trading a draft pick for Gus Bradley. The roster has a bunch of dynamic young skill players who like each other and like their coach.
These are all favorable auguries.
They just don’t mean much until next year.
If there is one positive to be gleaned from this NFL season, it’s this. The Jags are better now than they were 12 months ago.