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Jaguars 20, Steelers 10: 5 Observations on Trevor Lawrence, Josh Allen and More

The Jaguars kept their hot streak on track thanks to a mostly dominant game vs. the Steelers in Week 8.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are rolling and it is tough to say there is any stop in sight.

After a nine-win regular season a year ago, the Jaguars now have six wins at the season's halfway point, sporting an AFC South-best 6-2 record after a 20-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8.

What does the win mean though, and what could it change moving forward? We break down our thoughts below. 

Credit goes to Doug Pederson for what the last month-and-a-half has turned into 

The Jaguars could have seen the 2023 season go a very different route after their 1-2 start. We have seen past Jaguars teams (namely the 2018 Jaguars) completely meltdown once their season saw some adversity. While three games is nothing in the grand scheme of things, the Jaguars deserve credit for pushing through the disappointing start and a shocking Week 3 blowout loss to the Houston Texans. A lot of that credit obviously goes to the locker room, but the majority of it should go to head coach Doug Pederson.

As we have stated before, most teams take on the personalities of their head coach. The Jaguars' 2021 season turned into a living hell for a number of reasons, but the dramatic and emotional nature of Urban Meyer was a big reason the Jaguars couldn't bounce back from adversity. Pederson is simply the leader the Jaguars need as a franchise and the Jaguars never wavered. As a result, they have learned how to win ugly and are now 6-2.

This game played out exactly how it was always going to 

I was surprised to see so many people predict for the Jaguars to score near 30 points in this contest. As I wrote in my pre-game prediction, the Jaguars had some favorable matchups with the Steelers' defense but their tendency to turn the ball over in advantageous situations would limit their scoring potential. Plus, it is a Steelers vs. Jaguars game. Other than the 2017 playoffs, these games always play out like this. 

So while the Jaguars should have won by a wider margin (more on that later), I am not the least bit surprised that Sunday played out like it did. It was one of the most predictable games and performances of the season, something that is a rarity when it comes to the always surprising NFL. The Jaguars were the better team and had the right matchup advantages across the board, and Sunday reflected that.

Darious Williams continued his Pro Bowl season 

With the Jaguars missing two starting defensive backs against a very good wide receiver duo in George Pickens and Diontae Johnson, the Jaguars badly needed Darious Williams to continue his Pro Bowl-level season. He did just that, too, nearly picking off the Steelers on two different occasions and also saving a potential touchdown in the first quarter with one of the best pass breakups you will see this season. 

I am not sure if Williams earns a Pro Bowl nod for a few reasons. One reason is the fact that, while his stretch of games over the last five weeks has been legitimately elite, it is just Week 8. A lot can change over the next nine weeks. The other reason is that the Jaguars, even in winning seasons, rarely get the national name recognition that is needed for Pro Bowl votes. But if any cornerback in the NFL has earned it in 2023, it is Williams. 

The Jaguars have a turnover problem, not a pure offensive problem 

The Jaguars' offense wasn't bad in the traditional sense on Sunday, despite scoring just 20 points. They moved the ball efficiently, seemingly got into the Steelers' territory with ease, and generated their most explosive passing offense of the season with five completions of 26 yards or more. Despite all of this, the Jaguars seemingly left anywhere between 9-to-21 points on the board. At this point of the season, the Jaguars don't have a problem moving the ball. They do have a problem with self-inflicted mistakes and turnovers, however, and the blame can be shared between the coaching staff and the players.

It started with Evan Engram's red-zone fumble, which came on 1st-and-10 from the Steelers' 18-yard line. The ball wasn't fumbled due to the weather, with it instead simply being a stellar defensive play by Kwon Alexander. But the decision to call a shove pass into the heart of the Steelers' defense was a curious on to begin with and would have only been a small and inefficient gain even if Engram didn't fumble. Odd play-call for a surging offense, and worse execution. 

Then there was the Lawrence interception. Lawrence had an underneath option open but instead forced the ball into triple coverage. The second Lawrence let go of the pass, it was clear it was a bad decision. It was probably the worst decision of his career, which says something because he threw two other similarly mind-numbing interceptions last year vs. the Texans and Broncos. He is a legit top quarterback in the NFL and had several franchise throws in this game alone, but he is too experienced for passes and decisions like that one.

Then the Tank Bigsby fumble. If the referees stuck with their original ruling and ruled Bigsby down, like it appeared he was, then this would be a different story. But the only way to ensure a situation like that doesn't happen is to not give them a chance to make that call. Bigsby only got looks on that one drive, and his third turnover of the year is likely the deciding reason.

Josh Allen has earned his pay-day  

The floor for a Josh Allen contract at the start of the 2023 season seemed to be a Alex Highsmith-level deal -- four years, $68 million and low in guarantees. After the first eight games of 2023, though, an argument could be made that Allen deserves to be the Jaguars' first-ever $100 million player. Allen has complete shattered any past numbers, collecting nine sacks in the Jaguars' first eight games and recording three multi-sack games after a two-sack performance against the Steelers.

On a defense that places a premium on stopping the run and forcing takeaways, Allen is arguably the key cog in their machine. He sets the edge vs. the run as well as any edge defender in the NFL and entered Sunday as a top-15 pass-rusher in terms of efficiency. Add in the high sack volume in a career year so far, and Allen deserves the bag that a team will give him this offseason. The Jaguars can't afford to not be that teams.