Tony Romo got the ball rolling this week predicting the Jags to make the Super Bowl. He won't be the last person who looks at Jacksonville's roster and sees a championship contender.
Blake Bortles joined NFL Network's NFL Total Access on Thursday and admitted that the Jags know they won't sneak up on anyone this season.
"I think last year we kind of caught some teams by surprise -- if that's possible in the NFL," he said. "I don't think that's something that's going to happen this year. The way we play, as good as our defense was, I think we're definitely a bit on people's radar now as far as a team that's headed in the right direction and a team to be taken seriously. I think we're going to get everybody's best shot, which you do week-in and week-out in the NFL, regardless, but I think we'll definitely get that. And the AFC South is going to be tough, and you know it's our goal every year to win that."
Taking a question from Mike Tiscione, who runs the Bortles-themed Twitter account @BortlesFacts, the Jags QB noted that the experience from the 2017 run will be instructive in making the next step.
"The experience we got, playing in a playoff game -- a home playoff game for the first time in a decade in Jacksonville -- being able to win. Kind of an ugly win, but it was a win at home in front of our home fans and first playoff game in a long time," he said. "Then go up to Pittsburgh, in a hostile environment, (against) a good organization, (with) tradition, that is extremely good. And to go in there and beat them for the second time. Then to go to Foxboro. I think it's just a bunch of experiences that we can draw from as a team throughout. I think it also gave us a bit of a taste of where we want to go every year and how much further we want to go."
The biggest question mark for the Jags heading into the season is whether Bortles will improve upon his 2017 season, regress, or remain an enigmatic riddle. The 26-year-old said he hears the criticism of his play but doesn't let that bother him on the field.
"There's times when I deserve it," Bortles said of the criticism. "And I don't have a problem admitting that I didn't play good. And I don't have a problem with people critiquing me when I don't play good. It's just never really bothered me. I love going to work every day. I love playing football, and the locker room, so why let something affect me that I have no control over?"
If the good version of Bortles shows up regularly for the Jags in 2018, a deep playoff run is on the horizon in Duval.