Sunday was bad. Really bad. Did it signal a sea change in the AFC -- an AFsea change, if you will?
Here's the logic: As you've probably been reminded roughly 7,000 times since the Jaguars wrapped up their 31-20 win over the Patriots Sunday evening, Bill Belichick teams get better over the course of the year. They have at least one bad early season loss, then the defense gets better over time to the point where it's good enough in the Super Bowl, provided you don't sit the star cornerback.
For as troubling as Sunday looked, you can be confident enough in that improvement happening again to the point where the defense will look a heck of a lot better if and when these teams meet in the playoffs.
What you can't be as confident in is that Blake Bortles will do that again.
Bortles is fine. He's not great, and that gets him a lot of attention because a lot of other parts of that team are. On Sunday, the only time the Patriots touched him was when they seemingly put a gold jacket on him at the end of the first half. When all was said and done, the fifth-year QB had gone for 377 yards with four touchdowns and a pick.
There are a lot of takeaways you can have from that game, most of which are probably about the defense being pretty bad right now. "Oh shoot, Blake Bortles is actually awesome!" isn't one of them. That's because he's been in the league long enough for him to establish what he is. Unless there's some sort of Eli Manning phenomenon going on here -- which should still bewilder people to this day -- Patriots fans should still feel pretty confident against the Jaguars, for now.
The "pretty" and the "for now" are important there because this is a team that still almost beat you once without Bortles being great. He was good in that AFC Championship -- 23 of 36 for 293 with a touchdown and no picks -- but his impact on that contest would fall under the "didn't lose the game for them, but wasn't exactly dominant" category.
And that's common enough. Even with how important the quarterback position is, you need to be truly horrible to actually be incapable of winning on a good team. "Meh" QBs have won, and Bortles is more "meh" than horrible.
As for the "for now," if that team is ever above average at quarterback while adding weapons and maintaining what they are on defense, they'd seemingly be favorites in a conference that's looking for someone to establish themselves as the Patriots wind down. If this group doesn't prove to be a flash in the pan and adds the necessary pieces, it's plausible that they could become the class of the AFC.
But they're not there yet, at least as it relates to this season. Because Tom Brady's still there and the Patriots defense will get better. It always does because that's what Bill Belichick teams do.
If we're going to look at the history there, we've also got to look at the history everywhere else. To expect Bortles to become the player he was Sunday would be a leap. Here's betting New England's defense will be better the next time these teams see each other, and the mythical figure that torched them Sunday will be nowhere to be seen.