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Can the Jaguars still win the AFC South despite injury to QB Trevor Lawrence?

Jacksonville dropped the Week 13 MNF matchup to the Bengals to fall to 8-4 on the season. In a tight division and with the starting QB out, can the Jags still take first?

Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts after being injured against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at EverBank Stadium on December 04, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars entered Monday Night Football in Week 13 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals with an 8-3 record atop the AFC South. The Jags were heavy double-digit favorites at home against a Bengals team without QB Joe Burrow. In the third quarter, QB Trevor Lawrence rushed in a TD to give the Jaguars a 28-21 lead entering the final frame.

Unfortunately, that’s where the nightmare scenario took place.

Lawrence had his ankle rolled up, was helped to the locker room and did not return. C.J. Beathard would enter the game and the Jaguars were able to tie things 31-31 to force overtime. But it wasn’t enough as the Bengals were able to win 34-31 to pull off the upset. The Jaguars dropped to 8-4 and only have a 1.0 game lead over the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South standings. With Lawrence on the mend and just five games left, can the Jaguars hold on to win the division? We investigate.

Can Jaguars still win AFC South division?

At the moment, DraftKings Sportsbook doesn’t have odds posted to win the AFC South. That’s likely while we await word on the official timeline for Lawrence’s ankle sprain. It should be a week-to-week situation where Lawrence could miss at least a few games before being back at practice. But looking at the Jaguars’ remaining schedule, it could be tough for Jacksonville in the short-term, even if Lawrence only misses a few games.

Jaguars’ remaining schedule

Week 14: @ Browns
Week 15: vs. Ravens
Week 16: @ Bucs
Week 17: vs. Panthers
Week 18: @ Titans

Jacksonville has a relatively easy schedule down the stretch but as you can see, the next two games could be difficult without Lawrence. The Cleveland Browns have issues at QB and have lost two in a row. Still, Cleveland’s defense and run game are strong enough to carry it against a Lawrence-less Jaguars team. Luckily the Jaguars have a pretty stout run defense, so getting past the Browns is feasible.

The Ravens are another animal. Baltimore will still be vying for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and if Lawrence isn’t back, beating the Ravens will be tough. That could be a week the Jaguars plan on throwing given the rest of the schedule is very winnable. But you’re also staring down three road games. The Bucs will be in the hunt for the NFC South title and a Wild Card spot. That game may not be easy. But Jacksonville should win its final two games with or without Lawrence. Getting Lawrence back for at least that final game vs. Tennessee could be all the Jags need to make the playoffs. But winning the division could be tricky.

If you look at the Colts and Texans’ remaining schedules. each are very easy. Easier than the Jags. If Jacksonville loses the next two games and wins the final three to finish 11-6, the Jags likely lose the division to either the Colts or Texans. Jacksonville basically has to finish 4-1 down the stretch to have any chance at winning the division unless Indy and Houston slip up. That could be tough without Lawrence for 2-3 games, given the next three games are the most difficult of their remaining schedule.

Verdict

I think the Texans or Colts win the AFC South. Even if the Jaguars had a healthy Lawrence this would be the case given the remaining schedules. Jacksonville wasn’t looking great even with Lawrence healthy on MNF vs. the Bengals, who got a great performance from backup QB Jake Browning. Whenever the odds are posted for the AFC South crown on DKSB, pick your favorite out of the Colts and Texans. Whichever of those two teams who has worse odds is who you should target in the betting market.