Jaguars’ dominant defense could lead to long playoff run

Remember the 2000 Ravens with Trent Dilfer? How about the 2002 Buccaneers with Brad Johnson?

Too far back to remember? The 2015 Broncos with Peyton Manning throwing ducks on an arm hanging on by a thread?

By now you’ve probably guessed the pattern. All three of those teams won Super Bowls with dominant defenses despite subpar quarterback play.

Call me crazy, but the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars are starting to get that vibe.

The Jaguars’ defense is leading the league in scoring defense, allowing 14.1 points per game, and sit atop in takeaways. The last two teams to lead in both those categories were the 2013 Seahawks and the 2000 Ravens. You guessed it, both teams won the Super Bowl.

You know a defense is legit when the secondary comes up with a cool nickname. The “Jackson 5” of Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Tashaun Gipson, Barry Church and Aaron Colvin are shutting down opposing offenses’ passing games.

The Jaguars are allowing 162 passing yards per game, a league best. The next closest are the Ravens at 185 yards.

We haven’t even gotten to the front seven yet. Calais Campbell is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. He gets to face his former team Sunday when the Jaguars play the Cardinals.

Malik Jackson. Marcell Dareus. Telvin Smith. Dante Fowler Jr. All former Pro Bowlers or top picks on the Jaguars’ front seven.

Jacksonville, which leads the AFC South at 7-3, has allowed nine or fewer points in six games, the most in the NFL. No other team has more than three games.

But the Jaguars aren’t playoff tested and will need to go through the Patriots’ Tom Brady if they want to join those memorable defenses that won it all.

The Jaguars have beaten the Steelers and forced Ben Roethlisberger into five interceptions. They’re not afraid of the top-tier quarterbacks.

Jacksonville could be hindered by the play of quarterback Blake Bortles, who has been inconsistent for most of the season.

The Trent Dilfers and Brad Johnsons of the world got the job done because they didn’t turn the ball over. Bortles has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled the ball six times this season.

But the Jaguars have stud rookie running back Leonard Fournette to give the ball to 30-plus times a game.

Come January, the Jaguars will be a tough out in the postseason.

Game of the week: Saints (8-2) at Rams (7-3)

The Rams head into the second week of their five-week gauntlet that started with a poor performance in Minnesota.

Jared Goff and the Rams’ explosive offense will look to bounce back at home against the Saints, who lead the NFC South.

The Rams, who were limited to seven points against Minnesota, won’t have to worry about Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley. The Saints’ top two cornerbacks are out with injuries.

New Orleans might need to rely on the 38-year-old arm of Drew Brees if the game turns into a shootout. Brees proved last week he can still sling it after going 11 of 11 down the stretch against the Redskins. New Orleans has won eight straight games.

Los Angeles faces the Cardinals, Seahawks and Eagles in the next three weeks.

Second-half meltdowns in Buffalo

The Bills have made a habit of collapsing after strong starts to a season.

This season was the fifth time since 2000 that the Bills were above .500 after eight games. Buffalo went 10-24 in the second halves of those seasons, including this year.

Buffalo has lost three straight games after starting 5-2. Looks as if the Bills’ playoff drought will extend to an 18th season.

Tyrod Taylor, you’re up again.

Gilbert Manzano covers the NFL for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.

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