Are the Orlando Magic and the Jacksonville Jaguars the same team? Besides the fact that they play different professional sports, the similarities this season thus-far have been quite interesting to me. Never would I have expected some of the things that have unfolded for each team. What makes them similar though?
Newly acquired free agents making impacts
Both the Jaguars and the Magic are having success from their latest free agent acquisitions. The Jaguars have had tremendous success from Calais Campbell and AJ Bouye. Campbell has a career-high eleven sacks through 8 games and is one sack shy of tying Tony Brackens single-season franchise record set in ’99. Bouye hasn’t been slacking either, sitting in the top 6 in passer rating allowed in coverage. Along with Jalen, they have been dominate in shutting down top receivers so far this season. How dominate? The Jags as a team have only allowed three completions of 20+ air yards this season. THREE. Houston, does it still hurt letting him walk?
Orlando has had similar results so far from their free agent signings. Marreese Speights hasn’t had the impact that Campbell brings the Jags, but it’s the small things that have made him stand out so far this season. For example, when the Magic defeated the Grizzlies earlier this month, Speights played only 4 minutes but had an immediate impact. He hit two crucial threes and played tight defense. He ended up being the only bench player that night with a positive plus-minute figure. Where he does compare to Calais is in the veteran status. A seasoned vet like Mo has brought this team together more than I have ever seen in the past. Players are communicating more and everything seems more cohesive. The second, more visually-impactful Magic signee is Jonathon Simmons. Coming off the bench, Simmons has been the engine that runs the second unit. In the few minutes I watched in the contest against the Knicks last week, JSimms drove to the rim and finished three times. He got fouled each time and got pumped up instead of dejected, which is such a sight for sore eyes.
Young player impact
This one is short and sweet: Jonathan Isaac, who actually forgot to put his jersey on because he was so nervous for his first NBA game, has been showing flashes of what he can do. On the defensive end he has been dominate, averaging one block a game in just 20 minutes of action and has been a force on the glass. On the offensive side his shot hasn’t quite hit its stride, but his ability to clean up around the hoop has been outstanding.
As for the Jags, Leonard Fournette is the obvious player to fill this spot. Carving up yards that Toby Gerhart used to dream about, Fournette should hopefully learn from his silly mistake last week off the field and continue his dominance on the field. Tearing off runs that Jags fans haven’t seen since the MJD days certainly makes fans (as well as Blake) feel confident that we won’t be stuck in 3rd and long like we used to.
If you had told me in August that the Jags would be 6-3 and the Magic would be 8-5 and any point this year, I would have called you crazy. For the Jags, they have the easiest remaining schedule on paper in the league. For the Magic, they have a long road ahead. Luckily for them, they play in the Eastern Conference, so wins should be easier to come by with familiar opponents such as struggling Atlanta and Brooklyn. Both teams have shown flashes of dominance we didn’t expect, bringing us to….
Beating Team They Typically Would Lose To
The Jaguars torched the Steelers. Forcing 5 turnovers from Big Ben is incredible. Fournette almost rushed for 200 yards. This was the contest where people finally started figuring out who we are. Coming off a crummy loss to the Jets, people still thought Jacksonville was a pretender. The sheer domination in that game made people begin to believe.
Orlando traveled to Cleveland to get their annual butt-smacking. I was actually working the Jacksonville Icemen game that night and told my friend, “Oh god, I won’t even bother keeping up with this game. Aaron Gordon AND Elfrid Payton are hurt and we’re in Cleveland? I’m scared to see the final score.” Well, I wasn’t scared when I got the update of the final score that night. Shellacking the Cavs on their home court by 21 and being up by 37 at one point in the game is a wonderful thing to read in the recap.
This one applies to both but has a focus on the local football team. According to numberFire, The Jags have a 69% (nice) chance of winning the AFC South. With the easiest remaining schedule in the league, Jacksonville needs to step up to the occasion and prove to everyone that they aren’t pretenders.
As for the Magic, there is a lot of basketball left. If the team remains healthy, the three-point shooting remains consistent, and Aaron/Evan continue playing at a high level, the Magic should have a legitimate shot at making the postseason. The East is predictably weak and they need to take advantage of that. They must beat teams they are supposed to beat and also win more often than not against the teams that could go either way.
This could be the year these two franchises turn the tides of the losing ways we’ve all suffered through long enough. Incessant heckling from fans, lack of national TV exposure, being the butt of too many jokes…it gets old! Let’s keep our fingers crossed, breath held, and whatever other superstition you use to keep the streak of positivity rolling. We have been deprived of winning ways for too long. It’s time to take it back.