Pop quiz -- which NFL team is second in point differential through Sunday of Week 3? It'll surprise you.
The Jacksonville Jaguars at +46. Yeah, believe it. It's true.
Doug Pedersen's club is the only team in the AFC South with multiple victories, and it's outscored its opposition, 62-10, in the last eight quarters. This is the Jaguars we're talking about here, people. The franchise with one winning season since 2007. This is a major development in the NFL.
In this rare Jacksonville dominance, two intertwined developments protrude more vital than anything else -- better coaching which has helped spark the noticeable maturation of Trevor Lawrence.
And that maturation hasn't occurred by way of an uptick in big-time throws and shiny displays of his ridiculous arm talent and natural ability. While Lawrence has every so often reminded us why he was the most hyped quarterback prospect in a decade, it's mostly been due to his methodical operation of the offense.
You see, last season, Lawrence struggled with taking what the defense gave him, and even when he went the safer, higher-efficiency route, he missed far too many "layups." Through three contests this year, his playing style has been the opposite, and those layups aren't clanking off the front of the iron nearly as often. Lawrence is completing 68.1% of his passes at a respectable 7.1 yards per attempt with six touchdowns and one interception. In the Jaguars two victories -- five touchdowns, no picks, 76.8% completion and no sacks.
I love that Jacksonville hasn't been super-relient on a star offensively, either. There are four Jags with at least 10 receptions, and James Robinson and Travis Etienne are both averaging more than 4.2 yards per rush.
Last season, 36.3% of Lawrence's passes were out of his hands in 2.4 seconds or less. To date this season? He's at nearly 49% in that stat category. Amazing disparity.
Now, while I may have surprised you with the point-differential nugget, you didn't need this article to learn the Jaguars record or that they destroyed the Chargers in Week 3.
What you, along with many other football fans are asking themselves today -- "are the Jaguars actually good?"
My answer: They're close.
OK, that's wishy-washy, I'll admit. But all indications -- not just Pedersen's impact on the offensive scheme and Lawrence's improvement -- are that this is a team that has not only won more games than it has lost but is inching toward the possession of real staying power.
Context is often lost in today's the-hottest-take-gets-the-traffic sports media world but will not be here. The Chargers were without Keenan Allen, J.C. Jackson, and Corey Linsley and lost Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater during a game in which a decision on Justin Herbert's availability due to injured ribs was made moments before kickoff. This was not anywhere close to Los Angeles at full strength.
That must be considered and does make the win less striking. But it's not as if the relatively healthy Jaguars squeaked by. They cruised. This was a no-doubt-about-it 28-point victory in the Chargers' house.
The win was a total team effort. Jacksonville is currently eighth in defensive pressure rate at 32.3%. The Jaguars secondary is one of 15 clubs to have allowed an opposing yards-per-attempt average of under 7.0 heading into October and one of 14 teams that's surrendered a pressure rate of under 30%. Those are all signs of sound offensive and defensive fronts, the low-key backbone of every NFL team.
The Jags have allowed more plays of 20-plus yards (12) than they've accumulated offensively (11) and are essentially in the middle of the pack -- or close to it -- in those categories.
But remember, though, no one was expecting much of anything from the Jaguars this season. Being "middle of the pack" is a win for this franchise in 2022. And being a sneaky wildcard contender does not require a team to be fantastic in all phases.
I'll finish with this -- in the watered-down AFC South, it's not delusional or unrealistic to assume Jacksonville will be serious players for the division crown late in the regular season. And based on pre-season expectations, that would be as surprising as the Jaguars having the NFL's second-best point differential through three weeks.